Link: Canada: The Story of Us is just pop history for kids Canada: The Story of Us (Sunday, CBC, 9 p.m.) a peculiar production, laden and fraught. For a start, it all seems very, very official. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau opens the show with a cheery little speech about “co-operation and acceptance.” He encourages viewers to be, like him, “inspired” by the great Canadians we will encounter in the 10-part series. A lot of them, oddly enough, are actors, writers, performers and singers. Celebs, in other words. Continue reading.
Julie Bristow told me she was aiming to get some big-name Canadians to participate in Canada: The Story of Us and she came through. Sunday’s debut, at 9 p.m., opens with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau teasing what the next 10 weeks will explore.
“Tonight, and throughout this series, we meet some of the extraordinary women and men who shaped our country’s unique character,” Trudeau begins. “I hope that, like me, you’ll be inspired by these heroic Canadians so that together we can write the next chapter in the great Canadian story.”
Trudeau is just one of over 80 Canadians—among them Susan Aglukark, Lorne Cardinal, Paul Gross, Eugene Levy, Duncan McCue, Peter Mansbridge, Tatiana Maslany, Rick Mercer, Candy Palmater, Christopher Plummer, Lilly Singh, Georges St-Pierre, Clement Virgo, Colm Feore and David Suzuki—who participate in telling key stories from the country’s past as we celebrate 150 years as a nation.
“As a producer and journalist, this is the perfect combination for me,” Bristow Global Media president and CEO, and Story of Us executive producer Bristow says. “It’s mixing up modern ways of storytelling with CGI, celebrity interviews and re-creations of personal stories is a fresh take on documentaries. I really like doing shows that demand different skill sets and different teams.”
Stunning in scope and with so much history to cover, Bristow says over 150 stories were pitched and 50 were chosen for the 10, 60-minute instalments to spotlight everything from Canada’s birth to where the country’s future lies. Sunday’s debut starts, naturally, at the beginning with “Worlds Collide,” covering pre-1608 to 1670, as French settlers arrive and make an immediate impact on the Indigenous peoples who have lived there for centuries. Corner Gas‘ Lorne Cardinal and film and television producer Jennifer Podemski help outline the First Nations people of the time, a community with advanced democracies in place.
Samuel de Champlain is the first European sent to The New World specifically to settle the area and name it New France. His crew of 27 men contend with the elements, and an assassination plot, as the set down roots in an impressive settlement at the site of what is now Quebec City. Britain gets in on the action, and it’s a race between the countries to claim as much land and befriend as many First Nations communities as they can. This, ultimately, leads to the Battle of the Plains of Abraham.
Using stunning CGI, well-done re-enactments and under the guidance of historians and academic consultants—including renowned Canadian historian and author John English and Indigenous Arts Scholar Gerald McMaster—Canada: The Story of Us is informative and immensely entertaining. It’s certainly more thrilling than any history class I’ve sat in, no matter how good the teacher.
“In every episode, there are five personal stories that echo a theme,” Bristow says. “While every episode is loosely chronological, it’s not comprehensive. Each is a coming-of-age episode. Against all odds, we’re here as a country and a lot of the story is, ‘Can you believe it?!'”
Canada: The Story of Us airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on CBC.
The following changes have been made to CBC’s schedule. ANNE (1×120, 6×60) fans will no longer have to wait for the return of the acclaimed new series, with the air date for the second episode moving up from Sunday, April 2 at 8 p.m. (8:30 NT) to Sunday, March 26 at 8 p.m. (8:30NT). New episodes of ANNE will continue to air Sundays at 8 pm (8:30 NT).
As a result of that change, the premiere of new docu-drama series CANADA: STORY OF US (10 x 60) will move from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. (9:30 NT) on Sunday, March 26, with one episode airing instead of back-to-back episodes. Episode 102 will now air on Sunday, April 2 at 9 p.m. (9:30NT). New episodes of the series will continue to air Sundays at 9 p.m. (9:30NT).
Schedule changes: Moved: Episode 102 of ANNE moves from Sunday, April 2 @ 8 p.m. to Sunday, March 26 @ 8 p.m. (8:30NT).
Moved: The premiere of CANADA: THE STORY OF US Episode 101 moves from Sunday, March 26 @ 8 p.m. to Sunday, March 26 @ 9 p.m. (9:30NT). Episode 102 will now air on Sunday, April 2 @ 9 p.m. (9:30NT).
Updated primetime schedule for Sunday, March 26 (NT time zone half-hour later for all times)
Updated 8 PM: ANNE – Episode 102 (“I am no bird, and no net ensnares me”)
Updated 9 PM: CANADA: THE STORY OF US – Series Premiere, Episode 101 (“Worlds Collide”)
Updated primetime schedule for Sunday, April 2 (NT time zone half-hour later for all times)
Updated 8 PM: ANNE – Episode 103 (“But what is so headstrong as youth?”)
9 PM: CANADA: THE STORY OF US – Episode 102 (“Hunting Treasures”)
It’s not often you’re given the opportunity to step back into Canada’s past, but that’s exactly what I did last Thursday. The beach at Hamilton’s 50 Point Conservation Area was transformed into Normandy’s Juno Beach, the site where Canadian troops stormed ashore during D-Day.
With just a line of orange pylons separating filming from the public beach, a handful of actors dressed in the fatigues of the time darted up the dense sand countless times, diving behind Czech hedgehogs for scant cover as explosions (peat moss stuffed into metal bowls and then blown skyward) went off around them. The footage filmed portrayed how William “Boots” Bettridge and his fellow Queen’s Own Rifles land on the beach and call in aerial attacks on German tanks.
The segment, and 49 others, are part of Bristow Global Media’s massive production, Canada: The Story of Us, for CBC. Debuting next year to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary, other scenes filmed along Lake Ontario’s shores that day included Samuel de Champlain paddling a canoe and a re-creation of the struggle of Nguyen Ngoc Ngan, one of 60,000 Vietnamese refugees who came to Canada following the Vietnam War. Playing Ngan? His son, Tien Ngoc Ngan. Bristow Global Media president and CEO Julie Bristow says all the tales told in Canada: The Story of Us are personal ones.
“As a producer and journalist, this is the perfect combination for me,” Bristow says. “It’s mixing up modern ways of storytelling with CGI, celebrity interviews and re-creations of personal stories is a fresh take on documentaries. I really like doing shows that demand different skill sets and different teams.” She adds over 150 stories were pitched and 50 were chosen for the 10, 60-minute instalments to spotlight everything from Canada’s birth to where the country’s future lies.
“We like to say that, without the actions of that person, Canada may never have been the same,” she says. “It could be a small action, but without the bravery of some people that we don’t know, history might have been different.”