The official motto on the badge of the Royal Canadian Legion reads: Memoriam eorum retinebimus (“We will remember them”). This year’s National Canadian Film Day 150 (NCFD 150) falls not only on Canada’s sesquicentennial, but also on the 100th anniversaries of the Battles of Passchendaele and Vimy Ridge. Many of us in Canada are thinking about our history this year, but Canada’s largest Veteran and Community services organization, The Royal Canadian Legion, is especially remembering the sacrifices made by service members throughout Canada’s history.
Actor and filmmaker Paul Gross has been very committed to representing and exploring Canada’s military through film, and his explorations of the complex and harrowing realities of life as a soldier have no doubt been informed by his own experiences as the child of a Canadian Forces tank commander and grandson of a World War I veteran. Gross was awarded the Legion Founders Award in 2012 for the film PASSCHENDAELE, which the Legion called “a teaching heritage for future generations.” Gross thanked the Legion for their many years of support and being a mainstay in his grandfather’s post-war life.
Legion Halls around the country will be viewing his movies as part of NCFD 150. His two war films show the remarkable ways war itself has changed over time, while still focusing on the lives of the people involved. PASSCHENDAELE recounts the devastating WWI land battle that claimed over 15,000 lives, and HYENA ROAD follows a group of Canadian soldiers in modern-day Afghanistan using intel, negotiation, and strategy to push back Taliban insurgency.
Nearly 50 Legions in total will participate in NCFD 150, throughout British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, and over 30 in Ontario alone. In addition to two films directed by Paul Gross – HYENA ROAD and PASSCHENDAELE – select Legions will also be showing THE BATTLE OF VIMY RIDGE, a 1997 National Film Board (NFB) documentary that he narrated.
REEL CANADA would like to thank Paul Gross for his contributions to Canadian film and for providing Canadians with these powerful cinematic documents to help us understand the costs of war and remember the many sacrifices made by our veterans.