Surprising Strength - Filmmaker showcases unique Island athletes

Island filmmaker Jeff Eager, centre, has profiled Island athletes in three new documentaries.

Island filmmaker Jeff Eagar has had a lifelong love affair with sport. As a varsity basketball player, a marathoner and now a daily yoga practitioner, he sees sport and movement as a 'pillar of life.'

That’s why he wanted to introduce three highly successful Prince Edward Island athletes to the world.

Eagar produced three short documentaries entitled “Surprising Strength,” documenting the training and competition of a young new tennis player, a world-champion power lifter and an international award-winning kite boarder who have honed their athleticism right here on the island.

He plans to enter the films, produced with financial support from the provincial government, in several niche sports film festivals.

“Playing sports and being active is important. It’s a huge industry and a huge part of life,” Eagar explains. “You don’t see a lot of documentaries about sports on PEI.

"There are some great athletes here who deserve to be highlighted. These are small market sports where Island athletes have been successful on a world scale; I wanted to showcase that.”

Meet the Athletes

John MacDonald

The idea took hold when Eagar noticed Charlottetown’s world champion power lifter John MacDonald. He imagined the visual and audio experience he would be able to capture in MacDonald’s home garage gym.

“It’s a small but hugely successful community and these are big strong guys making a lot of noise banging steel and grunting,” he said, noting MacDonald is “strong as an ox but a really nice, soft spoken guy.”

Watch the video on YouTube here: Surprising Strenth - Powerlifting - John MacDonald

Cincy Chen

Jeff said he also knew he wanted to highlight a female athlete, and then he found 14-year-old tennis phenomenon, Cincy Chen. Chen has been training hours a day at Victoria Park public courts since her family emigrated from Beijing, China when she was nine. Now she spends half her year at a tennis academy in Florida and the other half on the island, with a goal to get a university scholarship then turn pro.

“This diligent young girl, she’s doing great. It’s a sport that doesn’t get much recognition at all,” Eagar noted.

Watch the video on YouTube here: Surprising Strength - Tennis Player - Cincy Che

Lucas Arsenault

Jeff used drone footage to capture PEI’s professional kiteboarder Lucas Arsenault, 26, in contortions high over the water.

Arsenault, who has been profiled in kite boarding publications worldwide, has been an ambassador for the sport and for his home province.

“With countless untouched spots and downwind opportunities, it’s possible to find a place to kite in every wind direction,” an article in Kiteboarder magazine said of Prince Edward Island.

Arsenault has won national and international competitions (he was the 2016 Canadian National Champion and just won the 2018 Canadian Freestyle Championship) and has kite boarded all over the world but he says the waters surrounding PEI are his favourite. The Wellington native has his sights set on a world championship.

Watch the video on YouTube here: Surprising Strenth - Kiteboarding - Lucas Arsenault

Eagar and his two brothers had been producing and hosting a popular travel adventure television series in Toronto.

“After four years of that, I burned out. My wife was pregnant at the time and we wanted a slower, friendlier pace of life," he said. “I noticed the burgeoning film industry in PEI and I wanted to be a part of that.”

Eagar credits the provincial government for having the foresight to invest in the film industry.

“To draw other businesses into the industry you have to invest; if they see government doing it, it’s the foundation piece to create an industry. It gives filmmakers motivation and optimism that there is a future here.

“High quality productions like these show rest of the country that PEI is a destination to shoot in and a destination to hire local talent,” he said.

“We read a lot of headlines from off Island, we are always looking outward. We need to look around and turn the spotlight back on the hardworking, successful people right here.”

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