Bethune: The Making of a Hero

Director Phillip Borsos
Year 1990
Run Time 115min
Genre Drama
Canadian surgeon Dr. Norman Bethune (Donald Sutherland) journeys one thousand five hundred miles into China to reach Mao Zedong's eighth route Army in the Wu Tai mountains where he will build hospitals, provide care, and train medics. Flashbacks narrate the earlier events of his life: a bout with tuberculosis at the Trudeau sanatorium; the self-administration of an experimental pneumothorax; the invention of operative instruments; his fascination with Socialism; a journey into medical Russia; and the founding of a mobile plasma transfusion unit in war-torn Spain. Bethune twice married and twice divorced his wife, Frances (Dame Helen Mirren), who chooses abortion over child-rearing in her unstable marriage. By 1939, Bethune had been dismissed from his Montreal Hospital for taking unconventional risks and from his volunteer position in Spain for his chronic problems of drinking and womanizing. As his friend states: "China was all that was left." Even there, Bethune confidently ignores the advice of Chinese officials, until heavy casualties make him realize his mistake and lead him to a spectacular apology.


Phillip Borsos

Borsos was a four-time Canadian Film Award, Genie Award winner, and an Oscar nominee. He released his debut feature, The Grey Fox, to much acclaim in 1982, at age 27. He also directed The Mean Season, One Magic Christmas, Bethune: The Making of a Hero and Far From Home: The Adventures of Yellow Dog, before his tragic death from leukemia at age 41.


Ted Allan


Donald Sutherland, Helen Shaver, Helen Mirren


Nicolas Clermont, Pieter Kroonenburg




Biography, History

Original Language