They Might Be (Canadian) Giants
Every nation has its roster of larger-than-life figures, and Canada is no exception. We’ve got titans of industry, doctors on the cutting edge, world-class musicians, literary icons, and more. Here’s a small sample.
Margaret Atwood: Once in August
There was never any doubt about Atwood’s place on this list, but with the renewed interest in The Handmaid’s Tale, she’s been thrust out into the spotlight once again. Outspoken on Twitter, and beloved by many, Atwood is a national treasure. This film by Michael Rubbo offers a refreshing, intimate look at a once-elusive personality.
This film by Donald Brittain is a portrait of Dr. Norman Bethune, a Canadian surgeon who served in the Spanish Civil War and the Sino-Japanese War. He’s a complex and controversial figure, but he pretty much brought modern medicine to rural China. The film itself has an interesting history: Foreign Affairs decided the film couldn’t leave Canada when it got wind that the US was upset about it, but someone secretly sent it out to Dok Leipzig, where it won first prize. After that, there was no holding it back.
Never a Backward Step
Once again, Donald Brittain directs a biography of a Canadian legend – biographies being his thing [http://blog.nfb.ca/blog/2018/01/16/masters-series-donald-brittain/] and all. This time, he turns the lens on Roy Thomson, born in Timmins, Ontario, to a telegraphist-turned-barber. Yet he grew up to become a Canadian media tycoon and one of the moguls of Fleet Street. His business acumen brought him riches, fame, and power. It’s a fascinating portrait.
Glenn Gould – Off the Record
Get a rare, personal look at a musical legend with this short film by Wolf Koenig and Roman Kroiter – two people who know a little something about being masters of their craft. It’s a nice film, because it takes you away from the professional side to get a look at the man behind the music.
We may not think of Dr. Frederick Banting as a Canadian giant – he never really came across as a larger-than-life figure – but he was responsible for one of the major discoveries of modern medicine. This short film is a reenactment of the period in Banting’s life when he discovers insulin as a treatment for diabetes. Aside from being a significant moment in our history, it’s a just a gem of a film. Highly enjoyable.