Codename Sally


PEN Canada

Writer/Producer: Sturla Gunnarsson
Director: Ari Gunnarsson
Editor: Roger Mattiussi
Producer:  Suzanne Depoe
Score:  Jonathan Goldsmith

Codename Sally

Moving, funny and inspiring, Codename Sally tells the cloak and dagger story of a Canadian mission like no other, while revealing the significance of an extraordinary moment in our cultural and political history”.  – Brian Johnson

I was at the PEN benefit twenty-five years ago and still remember what an electric, communal moment it was when Salman Rushdie emerged from deep hiding to appear, unexpectedly, on the Winter Garden stage. There was this powerful sense of community and of moral clarity, a feeling I’ve associated with PEN Canada ever since.

What I didn’t know at the time was what a compelling behind-the-scenes drama bringing Rushdie to Canada had been. Nor did I realize, until much later, that this was the seminal moment in his journey from fatwa to freedom. All of this became clear to me earlier this year, when Suzanne Depoe called on behalf of the PEN Canada Board to seek advice on how to go about making a film to commemorate the event. I agreed to meet with the principal players – Louise Dennys, John Ralston Saul, Ric Young, Marian Botsford Fraser and Adrienne Clarkson – and was captivated by the story. Doing a little internet search, I was dismayed to discover that the story is virtually unknown, and realized it would be lost forever if it wasn’t documented. My son, Ari, was visiting from China, where he makes documentaries, so I asked him to join me and make this film as a gift to PEN Canada, in recognition of the work they do to promote our most cherished value – freedom of expression.

To me this is a profoundly Canadian story about what a small group of people animated by a righteous ideal are capable of achieving. A modest little film with a big theme.

– Sturla Gunnarsson