Our Country’s Finest: Canadian Wars on Canadian Film

March 25, 2017

While we often consider ourselves a nation of polite, well-mannered door-holders, Canada is no stranger to war. Our efforts in global conflicts are a sombre reminder of the casualties of violence, and as we remember those lost in these bitter fights, REEL CANADA pays tribute through five films that capture some of Canada’s military contributions over the past century.

Passchendaele (2008)

As World War I raged on, in 1917, approximately 100,000 Canadian Corps troops were ordered to the Passchendaele front. With hundreds of thousands of lives lost and awful conditions on either side, the battle for the Passchendaele ridge is one of Canada’s proudest — and saddest victories, and it’s depicted on screen in a touching, heartbreaking drama by actor / director Paul Gross.

Captains of the Clouds (1942)

No, it’s not a Canadian production, but Captains of the Clouds is an interesting picture in Canadian film history: because it portrays the World War II contributions by the Royal Canadian Air Force, Warner Brothers thought to shoot the film in Canada, making it the first ever Hollywood feature film shot in our country. The title of the film is taken from a quote by Billy Bishop, one of Canada’s greatest military heroes. And because the United States of America had only just joined the fight against the Axis a year prior, the film’s release in 1942 was seen as a way to “prepare” the country for war.

With the Canadians in Korea (1952)

Given its out-of-date rhetoric exchanged between soldiers, With the Canadians in Korea possibly requires a historical point-to-view to watch these days. But the NFB’s chronicling of Canadian military efforts is truly commendable, and by putting cameras on the front lines, they managed to showcase what a day-in-the-life was like for many conflicts. Here, in this 1952 short documentary, we see what the title suggests: Canadians in the Korean War.

Shake Hands with the Devil   Hyena Road

Shake Hands With the Devil (2004)

Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire is an astonishing man whose dangerous work in Rwanda in the 1990s to stop Hutu extremist genocide is bravery personified. When he put his memoirs to paper in 2003, they were later developed into a drama starring Roy Dupuis and filmed in Kigali. After its premiere at TIFF in 2007, it went on to garner nearly a dozen Genie nominations for its excellence.

Hyena Road (2015)

Barren landscapes. Unseen enemies. Hyena Road depicts the modern war in Afghanistan, where peaceful peoples trying to live their lives find themselves caught between cross-fire. Under the command of Captain Pete Mitchell (Paul Gross), ace sniper Ryan Sanders (Rossif Sutherland) has caught word of a dangerous insurgency – and stopping it will take the cooperation of Afghan locals and the dogged efforts of Canadian troops. Showing how forces on either side can work together to stop evil, Hyena Road goes down a dusty, dirty, thunderous path.

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