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The Champions, Part 3: The Final Battle

Year: 1986
Language: English
Format: 16mm Colour
Runtime: 87 min
Director: Donald Brittain
Producer: Adam Symansky, Donald Brittain
Executive Producer: Barrie Howells
Writer: Donald Brittain
Cinematographer: Andreas Poulsson
Editor: Richard Bujold
Sound: Hans Oomes, Abbey Neidik
Music: Eldon Rathburn
Production Company: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, National Film Board of Canada

Donald Brittain’s singular talent as a documentarian allow his films at once to convey and probe the mythology of history. With The Champions, an incisive three-part study of the careers and cultural significance of René Lévesque and Pierre Trudeau, postwar Canada’s most prominent political figures, Brittain played with the friction between fact and myth.

With Part III: The Final Battle, a coda to The Champions that follows in detail Lévesque and Trudeau’s final showdown over the issue of Quebec’s "sovereignty association" referendum, Brittain captures far more than an incalculably decisive moment in this country’s history; he chronicles the moment when history slips decisively and irretrievably into the realm of popular myth.

The third (and best) of The Champions trilogy covers the years between 1977 and 1986. Using the same techniques as the previous two films, Brittain reveals the turbulent, behind-the-scenes drama during the first Quebec referendum on separation and the repatriation of the Canadian Constitution. In so doing, Brittain also follows each man’s fall from grace and documents the moment when their historic battles rose to the heights of history – or crumbled into the annals of defeat.

Using photos, newsreel footage and interviews with friends and colleagues, The Champions: The Final Battle chronicles the climax of the titanic struggle between these two men for the hearts and minds of Canadians and Quebecers. Most of the footage has been seen elsewhere, but Brittain’s genius is to fit the pieces together in mythic fashion – rife with stirring drama, compelling characters and the elements of fate – thus making sense of it all as a great passion play. The Champions: The Final Battle won two Genie Awards for Feature Documentary (Brittain, Adam Symnasky) and Direction in a Documentary (Brittain).

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