Stay Awhile – More than Just a Film Premiere

30th April 2015 - Kelsi Byers

For Clark Stanley director, Jessica Edwards, all of the ingredients to tell an amazing story were there – she was telling her story after all. Let us explain.

Jess’s film “Stay Awhile” is an intimate portrait of Canada’s first super group “The Bells,” which some of those who grew up when bell-bottoms weren’t “coming back” in style, but were “in style” would remember. 


Here’s the icing on the cake: Jessica, who wrote and directed the film is also the daughter of band members Cliff and Ann and niece to Jacki making the film much more personal, much more memorable and giving it that extra edge to grow in success – which it has.

Having premiered at Whistler Film Fest back in December 2014, Jess’s journey with her film continued to grow. The Toronto Star named the film as one to look out for at the Hot Docs: Canadian International Documentary Festival, which happened last weekend here in Toronto. For those in attendance it was a premiere to remember and here’s why:

  1. Choosing to tell the intimate story about “The Bells,” the singing sensation appeals to Canadian viewers – some seasoned, others first time listeners – giving them a feeling of music nostalgia.
  2. Being the daughter of two of the band members, and niece of another Jessica wrote and direct the film, uncovering the personal attachment and raw emotion of telling the intimate story of the band, and her family, many of which were present at the screening. It was real. It was honest. It was emotional.
  3. After the screening, the members of “The Bells,” reunited on stage to perform for the first time in years. This allowed the theatre to actually feel the magic that happens on stage when “The Bells” perform and took the film context to a whole new level. Goosebumps is an understatement.
  4. Cineplex movie theatres screened “Stay Awhile” in theatres on April 27 across Canada for one day only, which allowed viewers from coast to coast experience the magic of the Canadian film and bring them back to a time when “Fly Little White Dove Fly” filled the airwaves.
  5. Releasing “The Bells” albums digitally on iTunes, alongside the film on iMovie for Canadians to own gives them a piece of this Canadian music and film history, which go hand in hand.

Jessica had no idea that the film was going to start to carve out a path of its own, but that’s what happened, and all of the pieces: the story, the director, the writer, the band, and the music magic all combined to give the film the success it has seen, and will continue to see.

“I was nervous to release the film as it’s so personal and I’m protective of my family but the untold story of this incredible band and their unique sound has reconnected with audiences and have been introduced to new ones through the intimacy of filmmaking. There music is reborn and it’s everything I hoped for. I implore everyone to discover their roots, ask more questions. It’s an incredible human experience,” said Jessica on her journey with “Stay Awhile.”

Our prediction, Stay Awhile will go on forever, and you can catch the last HotDocs showing this Sunday at the Hart House Theatre at 3pm.