(November 7, 2016 – Toronto, ON) This Friday will mark the 98th year that on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour, Canadians will stop to remember and honour those who gave their lives so that we can live in freedom. Usually, when discussions of Remembrance Day begin, the talk is about World War Two and with the passing of time to a lesser extent, World War One, originally thought of as The War to End All Wars. It is a shame but almost all other conflicts involving a Canadian contingent do not get the same treatment as they do not carry the same weight as a world war. This year, thanks to History® Canada, two new documentaries, both World Premieres, will help shed some light into areas where there has been little or none until now.
The first is titled War Story: The Damage Done. It is the fifth installment of the acclaimed, award-winning War Story series created by one of the finest teams of documentary filmmakers in Canada, led by director Barry Stevens. In this program, five Canadian veterans, ranging in age from 28 to 90, share their powerful and personal stories of war and its costs. The wars in which they fought include Afghanistan, Korea, Bosnia, and the Second World War. Together, they speak about their experiences of combat, civilian suffering, witnessing war crimes, the personal damage they suffered – and how they got through it.
The five veterans are: Fred LeReverend, who enlisted to fight in the Second World War at just 16; Gordon Owen, taken prisoner of war after being severely wounded in Korea; Greg Alkerton, a Reconnaissance Platoon sniper on the fraught initial UN peacekeeping mission to Sarajevo; Master Warrant Officer Brett Perry, a decorated veteran of two combat tours to Afghanistan; and Sayed Shah, an Afghan interpreter for the Canadian Forces who now lives in Canada. They powerfully share their personal experiences dealing with one of the most-pressing scourges afflicting our vets: post-traumatic stress disorder. As their memories (some going back six decades) in this hour-long documentary indicate, PTSD may be something that’s become a bit better known by the general public in recent years, but it certainly isn’t a recent phenomenon, nor is it an easy adversary to defeat.
In addition to Director/Executive Producer Barry Stevens and Executive Producer David York, the group behind this production includes Producer Bryn Hughes, Editor & Co-Director Nick Hector, Director of Photography Stephen Chung, Composer David Wall, Associate Producer/Lead Researcher Andrew Theobald, Ph.D., Visual Researcher Erin Chisholm, and Sound Editor Michael Bonini. The Executive in Charge of Production for Corus Entertainment is Andrew Johnson.
The War Story series has already won four WorldFest – Houston International Independent Film Festival awards, the Yorkton Film Festival Golden Sheaf Award for Best Documentary Series, and a Canadian Screen Award for Best Direction in a Documentary Series.
War Story will air at 8 pm on November 11th, followed immediately by Black Watch Snipers at 9 pm. The producers of Black Watch Snipers remarkably found four surviving members – all in their 90s – of a WW2 Black Watch sniper brigade to tell their stories of shared danger & life-risking derring-do. These Canadian vets relate their adventures in Europe following D-Day, on missions operating clandestinely and in front of the front lines! Their harrowing personal stories are further heightened through extensive dramatic re-enactment (mostly filmed in and around Elora, Ontario).
“The incredible story of the Black Watch snipers in World War II hasn’t really been told on film up until now,” said co-producer and director Robin Bicknell. “We were unbelievably fortunate to be able to introduce viewers to these remarkable Canadian veterans, now very elderly, and draw on their personal dramatic stories for the film. It’s a story of heroism, as well as a powerfully emotional story of men who literally depended on each other for their lives. And it’s an extremely fitting program for Canadians to watch, and honour them, this Remembrance Day.”
Written by Michael Alcock, Executive producers for Black Watch Snipers are Elliott Halpern, Elizabeth Trojian and David O’Keefe. The creative team also includes Director of Photography Derek Rogers, Editor Bill Towgood, Music Composers Ohad Benchetrit and Justin Small, Production Designer Peter Twist, and Line Producer Anja Sobkowska. Narrator is Chris McPherson. As with War Story: The Damage Done, the Executive in Charge of Production for Corus Entertainment is Andrew Johnson.
Black Watch Snipers is a feature-length docudrama that packs a real emotional wallop. It’s an immensely moving tribute to courage, trust and enduring friendship. It’s also a real, Canadian “Band of Brothers” story, made more poignant by the revelation at the end of the film (spoiler alert!) that two of the four elderly veterans featured in this 80-minute documentary have since passed away. This film is their final testament. Black Watch Snipers has its World Premiere this Friday, November 11 at 9 pm ET on History® Canada.
History® is programming these two documentaries as part of its Days of Remembrance which begins on Wednesday of this week. Click here for more details on all the programs in this special tribute.