On Friday at the Hot Docs International Film Festival, TSN unveiled the slate of films in its ambitious original documentary series, ENGRAVED ON A NATION: STORIES OF THE GREY CUP, THE CFL AND CANADA. Commissioned by Bell Media, ENGRAVED ON A NATION celebrates the 100th Grey Cup with eight original documentaries demonstrating how the Grey Cup has become such an intrinsic part of Canadian heritage.
ENGRAVED ON A NATION will air on TSN, CTV, and in French on RDS beginning in September.
The individuals involved in ENGRAVED ON A NATION are among Canada’s most accomplished and respected documentary filmmakers. The filmmakers and the working titles of their documentaries are:
• Manfred Becker – The Photograph: 1942 RCAF Hurricanes
• Christie Callan-Jones – Mavericks: The Story of the 1971 Argos
• Paul Cowan – The Crash of Flight 810
• Barry Greenwald – Western Swagger
• Charles Officer – The Chuck Ealey Story
• Shelley Saywell – The Anthony Calvillo Story
• John Walker – Grey Cup 1969 and the FLQ Crisis
• Larry Weinstein – The 13th Man
“ENGRAVED ON A NATION is a project unlike anything we have ever tackled at TSN. As long-time partners of the CFL, we felt the 100th Grey Cup was the perfect opportunity to show Canadians how the Grey Cup has transcended sports and left an indelible mark on Canada,” said Stewart Johnston, President, TSN. “To tell great stories has always been something that we’ve taken great pride in doing. This ambitious project is an extension of our storytelling philosophy as we weave tales about family, relationships, legacies, politics and culture around the remarkable role that the Grey Cup has played in shaping our national identity.”
“By engaging the Canadian documentary film community, we’ve had the privilege of working with eight acclaimed filmmakers who, over a short period of time, have become custodians of the compelling stories that reflect our country’s history and society through sport over the years,” said Shawn Redmond, Vice-President, Programming, TSN. “Their passion and enthusiasm will make these human interest stories truly memorable – not just for football fans, but for all Canadians.”
Below are summaries of the original documentaries with working titles that will air this fall on TSN:
Mavericks: The Story of the 1971 Argos
• Synopsis: It was a magical moment in time. Toronto was shedding its “Toronto the Good” image and coming alive both on and off the gridiron. Toronto Argos GM Leo Cahill had built a team of mavericks and renegades who embodied the wild spirit of the times. Leo wasn’t just a coach, he was a showman, a director with a team that was just as crazy as he was. They were the team everyone loved to hate, but that just made them better. And, Toronto loved them. They reflected a city coming into its own. From the CN Tower to burgeoning multiculturalism, Toronto was developing confidence and attitude that matched that of its beloved football team. With the adoration of an entire metropolis behind them, the team make it to the Grey Cup – only to watch their championship dream all but fade away on a last-minute fumble.
• Director: Christie Callan-Jones is a multiple award-winning director. Her career highlights include winning a Silver Medal at the New York International Film and Video Festival and a Silver Hugo award at the Chicago Television Awards.
The Anthony Calvillo Story
• Synopsis: A classic “against all odds” story. It’s about hardship, family, hope, endurance and second chances. It’s the story of a poor Hispanic kid from east L.A. who found a way out, despite overwhelming odds, through the love of football. Anthony Calvillo’s remarkable life mirrors the game he has mastered. Off the field and on – he has faced every possible challenge. Even with the odds stacked against him, Calvillo overcame tremendous obstacles relying on unwavering support from family and inspiration fueled by the power of football.
• Director: Shelley Saywell is a producer, director and writer. The Emmy Award winner was shortlisted for the Academy Awards and has won UNESCO’s Gandhi Silver Medal.
The Chuck Ealey Story
• Synopsis: In the midst of racial unrest south of the border, Chuck Ealey, an undefeated African-American college quarterback, was passed over by the NFL. Undeterred, Ealey came to Canada for an opportunity to play in the CFL, where the only things that mattered were his abilities on the field and his will to win. Chuck broke boundaries on the field that resulted significantly off the field. He played a role in the Civil Rights movement through his athletics. This is an inspiring human story about standing up for your rights, beating the odds and changing the game.
• Director: Charles Officer is a talented director who, in his short career, is a four-time Leo Awards winner and Genie nominee. He recently directed the documentary Fuelled By Passion, The Return of the Jets that aired across the country.
The 13th Man
• Synopsis: This is a classic love story about the Saskatchewan Roughriders and their adoring fans. Their love was put to the test when the Riders were defeated in the 97th Grey Cup after the team was penalized for having a 13th man on the field – an error that caused an entire province of adoring fans and millions of television viewers to shake their heads in disbelief. In the wake of the heartbreaking defeat, the team’s fiercely loyal and proud fan base shows why they are the most faithful fans in professional sports.
• Director: Having directed more than 25 films, Larry Weinstein is one of Canada’s most accomplished and prolific documentary filmmakers. A multiple Emmy Award and Gemini Award winner, Weinstein’s film Making Overtures: the Story of a Community Orchestra was nominated for an Academy Award.
The Crash of Flight 810
• Synopsis: All his life, rookie Calgary Stampeders lineman Edwin Harrison was told that he looks like his grandfather, Cal Jones. But Harrison never got the chance to meet Jones, as he was killed in a mysterious 1956 plane crash that took the lives of four other All-Star Canadian football players. The tragedy had a tremendous impact on Canadian football and ultimately led to the creation of the modern day Grey Cup game. Now more than 50 years later, Harrison embarks on an emotional journey to learn more about his own family history and identity, and how football lived on in his family despite the odds.
• Director: Paul Cowan
is an Academy Award-winning cinematographer, Academy Award nominated director and retired member of the National Film Board of Canada.
Grey Cup 1969 and the FLQ Crisis
• Synopsis: In 1969 at the boiling point of FLQ terrorism in Quebec, CFL commissioner, Jake Gaudaur not only plans to hold the Grey Cup in Montreal for the first time since 1931, but he invites the FLQ’s arch-enemy, the Prime Minister of Canada, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, to kick off the game. Gaudaur, a passionate Canadian nationalist with a vision of football as a unifying force, may not have fully understood what he was getting himself into from his comfortable office in the sedate city of Toronto. Russ Jackson, the first Canadian born quarterback hero of the Ottawa Rough Riders, oblivious to the dangers plaguing Montreal, knew exactly what he had to do. This was the last game of his illustrious career and he was determined to beat Saskatchewan in what was destined to be one of the greatest games in CFL history against a backdrop of terrorism.
• Director: John Walker is an internationally acclaimed director and writer. The Donald Brittain Award winner is also a Genie and five-time Gemini Award winner.
The Photograph: 1942 RCAF Hurricanes
• Synopsis: Jackie Gaudaur, daughter of former CFL player and Commissioner Jake Gaudaur, always wondered why her father’s prize possession was a tattered photograph of his old team, the Toronto Royal Canadian Air Force Hurricanes. The team won the 1942 Grey Cup before most of them went overseas to fight during the darkest days of the Second World War. Jake, who was a flight instructor, stayed behind in Canada and was devastated when many of his teammates were casualties of war. Now 70 years later, Jackie embarks on an emotional quest to discover why the Hurricanes and the old team photo were so important to her father and ultimately the rest of the country.
• Director: Manfred Becker is a Donald Brittain Award winner. His critically acclaimed films have won Gemini, Genie, Chalmers and International Emmy Awards.
• Synopsis: Western Swagger is as much a story of political drama as it is of football. Documenting the decades after Alberta struck oil and solidified Canada as an energy superpower, Alberta’s prowess on the gridiron was ignited by five successive Grey Cup wins by the Edmonton Eskimos. With the National Energy Program putting Alberta’s economy in a tailspin, Western Swagger demonstrates the unshakable determination of the West both on and off the football field and the beginnings of an East vs. West rivalry that still persists.
• Director: Barry Greenwald is a critically acclaimed and multiple award-winning filmmaker who has won the prestigious Palme d’Or for Best Short Film at the Cannes International Film Festival.