Trudeau (TV Movie)

CBC Televison March 31–April 1 2002, 8-10pm
6 April 2002

I didn’t like the look of the commercials I saw for this show, but I knew I would watch it regardless since Trudeau was such a mensch. He was a man who was so widely admired that his death was a national patriotic event for some, but was also so reviled by the western provinces and in Quebec that they’re reluctant to put him on the money just yet.

The Ubercanadian

Colm Feore played Canada’s most famous international musician, Glenn Gould, and now he’s played Canada’s most famous politician, Mister Margaret. It made sense that he was cast as Trudeau, even though he looks nothing like him, a condition that almost seems expected after so many productions that strive to cast similar features. Because of these two roles, from such opposite ends of the white male canadian spectrum, I’ve now come to think of him as the ubercanadian, a role previously occupied by Trudeau himself as socialist-peacemaker-intellectual-world-traveler who loved Canada (and who Nixon hated!)


Having lived in Halifax, I was distracted in the first episode by recognizing so much scenery. I found the Beatlemania allusion filmed at the AGNS particularly laughable, because it’s the only time in my life that I’ll see that many people running out of the AGNS in joy. I wonder how John Greer feels about having his statue used as a prop during that somewhat awkward sequence (however, I thought was an interesting way to present Trudeaumania by referencing the way Beatlemanina was portrayed on film by the Beatles themselves). Couldn’t they have found another location that wasn’t so obvious, and one in which didn’t trivialize the location by assuming that “no one’s going to know where this is, so we’ll use this as an urban campaign headquarters”? For the most part they disguised Halifax well. I must say that I saw a clip of the program on the Mike Bullard show the week before, wherein the silent little girl give Trudeau a rose, while he overlooks the scenery from some balcony. seeing the clip I thought that scene had been filmed in Montreal – only while watching the show on Sunday night, with the Haligonian teleology in place, did I recognize the location as being the top of the Westin Nova Scotian or thereabouts.


Despite the fact that I’ve recently developed an allergy to stylization that exists only to prettify weak or boring ideas, I like the way it was used in Trudeau to enhance a weak budget and by-default nature of the casting. I thought this was a fair and legitimate use of stylization, which I’m defending agaisnt those who hated this obvious example of “cbc canadiana” – that usually wacky and poorly produced quality of broadcasts that makes CBC’s recent American marketing campaign futile. For example, my sister’s friend, who watched it with us, scoffed at when one of the dates fell from the top of the screen and then became unsynchronized. Such unexpected effects, in a biopic, was a surprise and kept my interest, whereas a slick and over-expensive American production would have bored me with it’s earnestness and had me channel surfing. Considering they wrote some of the script from cabinet minutes only realeased last year, the content was earnest enough without needing to be visually slick. Life in reality is not slick, and this after all, was a re-presentation of a reality.

The Best for Last

I’ve long wished that a biopic would acknowledge the reality of the subject matter by using original footage here and there. My simple reason is so that I could be reminded of what the original looked like, or what the reality was like against the recreation. So, at the very end of the film, here was THE REAL Trudeau, who wasn’t as handsome as Colm Feore, nor as tall, delivering an early version of his “Just Society” speech at the 1968 Liberal Candidate Convention. As a whole, “Trudeau” was better served by using archival material, because I was reminded of the reality of this story, and got a feel for the marked difference between then and now.

Completely Gratuitous

It was also nice to see Knowlton Nash again via the archival footage, since he was such a presence in my pre-cable childhood.

Related Links

Rating: 8/10

Instant Coffee Saturday Edition

  1. Apr 2002: Appeared in Instant Coffee Saturday Edition Issue No° 6
  2. 2002-2015 Archived on my websites & blog
  3. Oct 2015: this version produced