For someone who went on to become an influential figure in Canadian broadcasting, it is perhaps surprising to learn that Ismé Bennie grew up without television. Born in Vereeniging, South Africa in 1940, Ismé knew from a young age that she wanted to travel. After graduating from Wits University in 1960, she moved to London, England, which is where she saw television for the first time.
Although happy in London, Ismé decided to return to South Africa after two years, mostly as a result of her parents’ urging. While participating in the production of an American documentary about South Africa, she met a Canadian man who lived in the United States. In 1964, she moved to Los Angeles to be with him and eventually the two moved to New York, where they lived for five years.
Ismé’s partner eventually grew unhappy in New York and decided to return to Canada. At the time, many young men were making their way to Canada in order to dodge the draft. Ismé followed their guide about entering Canada. Upon arrival, she completed the questionnaire with flying colours and was allowed to stay.
Once in Canada, Ismé quickly put together an impressive resume, holding senior positions at CHUM and CTV. She has been honoured by the Canadian Film and Television Production Association with a Personal Achievement Award in 1990 and a Jack Chisholm Award in 1995. In 2003, Women in Film and Television – Toronto recognized her with an Outstanding Achievement Award.
In 2010, Ismé left CTV in order to focus on freelance writing. In 2015, she published a memoir of her childhood entitled White Schooldays: Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa.
Bennie, Ismé, 1940-
Los Angeles (Calif.)
New York (N.Y.)
00:24 Ismé was born in South Africa in 1940.
00:36 Ismé immigrated to Enland in 1962. She shares some of her memories from her stay in London. She explains how her views of apartheid changed.
02:40 Ismé discusses her personal and political reaction when she returned to South Africa in 1964.
05:09 Ismé discusses her job with a news magazine in South Africa.
06:48 Ismé discusses her involvement with the production of a film.
08:15 Ismé explains how she met and followed a man to the United States in 1965. She discusses his influence on her intellectually and politically.
10:43 Ismé outlines her first years in North America, initially in Los Angeles, then in New York, and finally in Toronto.
12:32 Ismé explains how she prepared for her move to Canada and discusses her initial arrival in Canada in December 1969.
15:56 Ismé shares her first impressions of Toronto.
18:02 Ismé discusses the friends she made in Toronto.
19:42 Ismé discusses her involvement with her local residential association.
00:00 Ismé discusses her impressions of Canadians' views of South Africa.
01:11 Ismé discusses her process of integration into and adjustment to Toronto.
03:10 Ismé explains that she had minimal contact with other South Africans when she arrived in Toronto. She suggests that her circumstances differed from other South African immigrants.
06:42 Ismé discusses her Jewish life growing up in South Africa.
09:45 Ismé discusses her involvement with the Jewish Genealogical Society in Toronto due to her personal interest in genealogy.
10:57 Ismé discusses her pursuit of her family history.
14:24 Ismé graduated from Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg. She discusses the efforts of an alumni group in Toronto.
16:11 Ismé discusses her successful career in broadcasting.
00:00 Ismé continues to discuss her career in broadcasting.
01:46 Ismé discusses her current work involvement as a consultant and writer.
03:16 Ismé discusses challenges she has faced as a woman and as a Jew.
06:50 Ismé discusses people who have influenced her in her professional life.
08:31 Ismé discusses some of her most rewarding professional achievements.
10:28 Ismé discusses her avid, longstanding interest in reading.
12:07 Ismé discusses her family and friends in South Africa and how she has maintained connection with them.
16:10 Ismé discusses her impressions of recent visits to South Africa.
19:23 Ismé discusses the challenges her sister would face if she considered immigration to Canada.
Ismé considers the notion of moving back to South Africa.
00:00 Ismé continues to discuss the notion of living in South Africa.
01:30 Ismé recalls some of her memories of South Africa.
05:40 Ismé discusses the process of pursuing her Canadian citizenship.