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The Champions (documentary miniseries)

The Champions (documentary miniseries)

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The Champions is a three-part Canadian documentary mini-series on lives of Canadian political titans and adversaries Pierre Elliott Trudeau and René Lévesque
René Lévesque
René Lévesque was a reporter, a minister of the government of Quebec, , the founder of the Parti Québécois political party and the 23rd Premier of Quebec...

.

Directed by Donald Brittain
Donald Brittain
Donald Brittain, O.C. was a film director and producer with the National Film Board of Canada.Fields of Sacrifice is considered Brittain's first major film as director....

 and co-produced by the National Film Board of Canada
National Film Board of Canada
The National Film Board of Canada is Canada's twelve-time Academy Award-winning public film producer and distributor. An agency of the Government of Canada, the NFB produces and distributes documentary, animation, alternative drama and digital media productions...

 and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, commonly known as CBC and officially as CBC/Radio-Canada, is a Canadian crown corporation that serves as the national public radio and television broadcaster...

, the series follows Trudeau and Lévesque from their early years until their fall from power in the late 1980s. The series itself took over a decade to complete. The first two hour-long episodes Unlikely Warriors and Trappings of Power were released in 1978. The third installment, the 87-minute The Final Battle, was not completed until 1986.

Episodes


Unlikely Warriors explores Lévesque’s and Trudeau’s early years, from their university days through to 1967, when Lévesque left the Liberal party and Trudeau became the federal minister of justice
Minister of Justice (Canada)
The Minister of Justice is the Minister of the Crown in the Canadian Cabinet who is responsible for the Department of Justice and is also Attorney General of Canada .This cabinet position is usually reserved for someone with formal legal training...

. The episode documents the men’s similarities as well as differences. Though both were from wealthy families and were schooled by Jesuits, Trudeau had a detached intellectual perspective in sharp contrast with Lévesque’s more emotional journalistic approach. At their first meeting at a CBC cafeteria in Montreal
Montreal
Montreal is a city in Canada. It is the largest city in the province of Quebec, the second-largest city in Canada and the seventh largest in North America...

, Lévesque told Trudeau, "If you’re a goddamned intellectual, I don’t want to talk to you," setting the tone for their relationship to come.

Trappings of Power begins in 1967, when Trudeau, now Justice Minister, is being courted to run for the leadership of the Liberal party, and climaxes with Lévesque and his separatist Parti Québécois
Parti Québécois
The Parti Québécois is a centre-left political party that advocates national sovereignty for the province of Quebec and secession from Canada. The Party traditionally has support from the labour movement. Unlike many other social-democratic parties, its ties with the labour movement are informal...

 winning 1976 Quebec provincial election
Quebec general election, 1976
The Quebec general election of 1976 was held on November 15, 1976 to elect members to National Assembly of the Province of Quebec, Canada. It was one of the most significant elections in Quebec history, rivalled only by the 1960 general election, and caused major repercussions in the rest of Canada...

.

The Final Battle over the years between 1977 and 1986, including Lévesque and Trudeau’s final showdown in the 1980 Quebec referendum
1980 Quebec referendum
The 1980 Quebec referendum was the first referendum in Quebec on the place of Quebec within Canada and whether Quebec should pursue a path toward sovereignty. The referendum was called by Quebec's Parti Québécois government, which strongly favoured secession from Canada...

 and the repatriation of the Canadian Constitution
Constitution Act, 1982
The Constitution Act, 1982 is a part of the Constitution of Canada. The Act was introduced as part of Canada's process of "patriating" the constitution, introducing several amendments to the British North America Act, 1867, and changing the latter's name in Canada to the Constitution Act, 1867...

. Part Three also follows each man’s fall from political grace.

Release and honours


Originally broadcast on CBC Television
CBC Television
CBC Television is a Canadian television network owned by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the national public broadcaster.Although the CBC is supported by public funding, the television network supplements this funding with commercial advertising revenue, in contrast to CBC Radio which are...

, Parts one and two of the The Champions were also released as a feature-length film in 1978, winning four Canadian Film Awards, including Best Feature Documentary and Best Non-Dramatic Script.

The Final Battle won Genie Award
Genie Award
Genie Awards are given out to recognize the best of Canadian cinema by the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television. From 1949-1979, the awards were named the Canadian Film Awards...

s for Best Feature Documentary and Best Direction in a Documentary.

In 2006, the series was designed as a Masterwork by the Audio-Visual Preservation Trust of Canada
Audio-Visual Preservation Trust of Canada
The Audio-Visual Preservation Trust of Canada was a charitable non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the preservation of Canada’s audio-visual heritage, and to facilitating access to regional and national collections through partnerships with members of Canada's audio-visual community...

.

The series had been unavailable for several years, due to the expiration of rights for stock footage used in the film. As of 2009, those issues have been resolved and the series has been added to the National Film Board's online Screening Room.

External links