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Final Offer

(Final Offer: Bob White and the Canadian Auto Workers Fight for Independence/La Dernière Offre)

Year: 1985
Language: English
Format: 16mm Colour
Runtime: 79 min
Director: Sturla Gunnarsson, Robert Collison
Producer: Sturla Gunnarsson, Robert Collison
Executive Producer: John Spotton
Writer: Robert Collison
Cinematographer: Leonard Gilday
Editor: Jeff Warren
Sound: Brian Avery, Ian Hendry
Music: Jack Lenz
Narration: Henry Ramer
Production Company: National Film Board of Canada
Final Offer is a riveting, superbly structured, fly-on-the-wall observational account of the dramatic 1984 contract negotiations between the United Auto Workers (UAW) and General Motors. What begins as a relatively routine negotiation quickly transforms into a bitter confrontation between charismatic Canadian UAW leader Bob White and the union’s international president, Owen Beiber. Two main issues are at stake: the future direction of labour, and the right of the Canadian branch of the UAW to pursue its own objectives at the bargaining table.

While focusing primarily on the backroom negotiations at Toronto’s Royal York Hotel, the film makes skilful references to the plight of the auto workers whose careers and livelihoods are on the line. As Joyce Nelson explains in Cinema Canada, "The film... has a highly dynamic structure, interweaving scenes of increasing stressfulness at the auto-assembly production line... with the scenes of strategizing in White’s office. Through this structure, we never lose sight of the Canadian workers for whom White is battling."

Nelson elaborated on the film’s dynamic execution by explaining:

Final Offer is essentially about taking risks, not just in labour negotiations, but in every endeavour, including filmmaking... co-directors Sturla Gunnarsson and Robert Collison heighten the tension by using techniques that seem to bring the viewer right into the centre of the unfolding drama. In part, this is the result of the cinema vérité style, with its emphasis upon a moving camera, tight close-ups, and editing rhythms that emphasize cuts from one scene of tension almost directly into the next, with virtually no diminishment of the gathering energy.

As a result of the intense conflict that festers during the contract talks, White pulls his members out of the international union to form their own union.

Final Offer provides a remarkable portrait of revolutionary events and an object lesson in the complexities of Canada-U.S. relations. The film received rave reviews, won a Genie Award for Feature Length Documentary and was named Grand Prize winner at the Banff Television Festival. Mike Boone of the Montreal Gazette felt Final Offer was "an example of social documentary at its best," while Nelson called it "one of the most compelling documentaries ever made in this country... nothing less than a milestone in Canadian documentary history."