Paperland: Donald Brittain's Revenge

Films

For the past few days, I’ve been writing the text for a Donald Brittain playlist for NFB.ca, which I’ll be publishing sometime in the near future. As a result, I’ve kind of fallen in love with his work.

I realize I’m probably late to the party here, but Donald Brittain? Wow! His use of narration is brilliant and as a writer, I’m more than envious of his ability to find the perfect word, and string together the perfect sentence, to completely subvert the images presented on screen. And his use of humour, particularly when sarcastic, is awe-inspiring.

I shouldn’t be surprised. Producer Adam Symansky told me in an interview that it was not unusual for Brittain to spend entire nights in his office, hunched over his typewriter, waiting for that perfect word to come.

I started my Donald Brittain journey with Paperland, because the idea of a revenge film intrigued me. It was his diatribe against bureaucrats everywhere. After years of being frustrated by paper pushers, he channeled all his anger and aggravation into one ridiculously funny film.

At one point, he talks about the bureaucrats within the Catholic church and says “Pope Paul VI, who could affect the sex lives 543 million catholics with the stroke of a pen, failed miserably in his efforts to reform his own administration.”

His conviction on the subject matter is so thorough that he claims dreaded bureaucracy follows us from the cradle to the grave, that  “The act of being born is a government matter, and when we are laid to rest it will be in strict accordance with government regulations.”

So if you haven’t seen the film, I highly recommend you watch it. Me? I’m off to discover more of his treasures. If you’ve got a favourite Brittain film to suggest, I’m all ears…