Brian McKenna and I talk about his new film “Newfoundland at Armageddon”, unnecessary war and how an incident with bullies changed his life.
Newfoundland at Armageddon will air on CBC TV on Thursday, June 30 at 8 pm (8:30 pm NT), mere hours before the 100th anniversary of the event that changed Newfoundland – and Canada – forever.
One hundred years ago, on July 1st, 1916, the Newfoundland Regiment took part in a massive First World War offensive on the Somme, led by the British to liberate France and Belgium from the claws of the Germans. Some 800 soldiers from the Regiment went over the top that morning, near Beaumont-Hamel in France.
The following day only 68 were able to answer roll call. Because of that battle, nothing about Newfoundland would ever be the same. To commemorate the one hundredth anniversary, Brian McKenna’s latest feature documentary film Newfoundland at Armageddon tells the story of this epic tragedy. Using a technique he perfected during his 2007 project, The Great War, 21 descendants of soldiers who fought with the Newfoundland Regiment were recruited.
Through descendants’ eyes, and with the guidance of regimental records, historians’ research, soldiers’ files, diaries, letters and family stories, the documentary recreates the battle and its aftermath in Newfoundland. With the help of dramatization, we go behind the scenes of history and visit General Haig as he’s planning the battle with his generals; we’re also confronted to the hardships of a family who sent a son to war.
Enhanced with special effects and CGI, the battle and night raids are intercut with dramatizations, archive footage and photos, as well as interviews with prominent historians, John Fitzgerald, Margot Duley, Gwynne Dyer and Adam Hochschild.
Narrated by Newfoundland musician Alan Doyle, written by renowned Quebec filmmaker Brian McKenna and multi-award winning Newfoundland author Michael Crummey, directed by Brian McKenna, this 90 minutes documentary film is a Galafilm Productions inc. (Quebec) and Morag Loves Company inc. (Newfoundland) coproduction.
Filmmaker, historian, author and journalist Brian McKenna is best known for his provocative, prize-winning films on Canada’s and the world’s history:
The Great War, Big Sugar, The Killing Ground, War at Sea, The Valour and the Horror, Web of War, War of 1812, Fire and Ice: The Rocket Richard Riot, Chiefs, Korea: The Unfinished War, Battlefield Quebec: Wolfe and Montcalm, Famine and Shipwreck, an Irish Odyssey, and his most recent project, The Secret World of Gold. McKenna also directed the Gemini Award – winning television program Memoirs of Pierre Trudeau, a five -part series broadcast on both the French and English networks of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. A companion volume to the series became a Canadian publishing bestseller.
In 2003, McKenna was honoured with the prestigious Gordon Sinclair Award for Broadcast Journalism at the 18th Annual Gemini Awards. Brian McKenna is also a founding producer of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Oscar – winning current affairs show, The Fifth Estate, a former parliamentary correspondent for
The Montreal Star and co – author of the Penguin Books history of Montreal’s legendary mayor, Jean Drapeau. He is the founding chairman of the Canadian Committee to Protect Journalists, prompted by his experience with war, torture and terrorism. Brian McKenna is a graduate of the Loyola College (then part of University of Montreal) with degrees in English Literature (1967) and Communication Arts (1968).