This event will feature the official premiere of the documentary “Operation Lights Out” followed by a conversation with the film’s Director. The film chronicles an under-documented role played by Canadians in saving over 1 million lives during the Biafra War as a result of the airlift operation it facilitated called “Canairelief” – and the role Canada played in granting asylum to former Biafran soldiers who risked facing persecution.
Over 50 years ago, selfless Canadians made history by participating in the largest non-governmental war relief effort ever. Discover the hidden but incredible story of bravery and humanitarianism linking Nigeria and Canada.
“Operation Lights Out – The Story of Canairelief” unveils a tale of heroism, hope, and the unparalleled impact of a people-driven humanitarian effort in the midst of one of the most devastating conflicts and the first TV War in history.
In 1967, Nigeria plunged into a brutal civil war that claimed millions of lives. Ethnic conflicts and tensions led South-Eastern Nigeria to declare independence and create the Republic of Biafra, sparking the tragic Nigerian Civil War. As the conflict raged on, hunger and illness ravaged the people of Biafra, particularly the children, and over 2 million souls perished.
In the midst of this darkness, however, emerged a story of hope, heroism, and humanity. Nigerian-Canadian filmmaker, Angela Onuora, tells this incredible tale in her award-winning documentary film, Operation Lights Out – The Story of Canairelief. The film chronicles the remarkable efforts of Canairelief, a group led primarily by members of The Presbyterian Church in Canada, who contributed to saving over one million Biafran lives.
Canairelief played a pivotal role in the Biafran Airlift, the largest non-governmental humanitarian relief effort in history. Their actions not only saved countless lives but also helped shape the future of humanitarian efforts by inspiring the formation of independent global humanitarian organizations such as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) or Doctors Without Borders, in response to (and in defiance of) the prevailing notion that humanitarian efforts required permission from belligerents prior to delivering relief to innocent victims of war.
The untold role of exemplary Canadians is highlighted, as incredibly, Oxfam Canada’s first major globally impactful outing soon after its founding was its collaboration with members of the Presbyterian Church in Canada and a private businessman (Jack Grant) to buy the first plane, for what became one of the most impactful non-profit airlines in history, and biggest contributor to the airlift, CANAIRELIEF! Of the $108,000 needed to buy the Super Constellation aircraft, The Presbyterian Church in Canada and Oxfam Canada put down $50,000.00 each, while Jack Grant wrote a personal check for $8,000.00. This pivotal moment helped save over 1 million lives as part of the Biafran Airlift; especially because these aircraft (20 tons capacity) were the largest aircraft in the airlift (responsible for feeding 200,000 people everyday).
As the 56th anniversary of the declaration of Biafra approaches on May 30th, ‘Operation Lights Out – The Story of Canairelief’ provides a timely exploration of the causes, impact, and lessons learned from the ensuing humanitarian tragedy and response. With recent crises across the globe, from Cameroon to Ethiopia to Syria to Ukraine, the film serves as a powerful reminder of the costs of war, importance of concerted humanitarian efforts, and the resilience of the human spirit.
Warning the trailer contains graphic image. Watch the trailer.
About the speaker
Angela Onuora is an award-winning filmmaker and interdisciplinary artist, director, producer, writer, actor, TV host, music composer, and concept developer based in Waterloo Region, Ontario.
She is a current graduate student (MFA in Film) at the prestigious York University, a 2019 graduate of Conestoga College from the Broadcasting Performance and Digital Media Graduate Program; and founder of The RISE Class – a crash course in video production designed to empower the most underserved and underrepresented in the community. Angela is an Equity, Diversity & Inclusion advisory committee member to The Region of Waterloo Arts Fund; and a film production mentor at the COVE/COVOX Arts Incubator. Her recent film is the historical documentary titled “Operation Lights Out – The Story of CANAIRELIEF”, which tells the little-known story of the Canadian humanitarian effort during the Biafran War in Nigeria, over fifty years ago.
The official selection at seven film festivals and winner of “Best Documentary” award at Toronto International Nollywood Film Festival, Lake International Pan African Film Festival, and Cameroun International Film Festival; Special Recognition Award at Silicon Valley African Film Festival; Special Recognition Award from the US House of Representatives; Recognition of Outstanding Achievement from The State of California Senate; and Special Jury Prize at Eastern Nigeria International Film Festival.
Since arriving in Canada in 2014, Angela has also co-founded a Women-in-Filmmaking Collective called Studio D-20, under the auspices of the Commons Studio – a part of The Working Centre Kitchener, Ontario. Angela’s biggest passion is Creative Writing, and she is drawn to topics that celebrate all women, and tell stories fuelled by their diverse experiences and from their perspectives. She identifies as a women’s champion for equity (a story for another day).