The Champions, Part 2: Trappings of Power
Format: 16mm Colour
Runtime: 56 min
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 plays with the friction between fact and myth.
Part II: Trappings of Power begins in 1967, when Justice Minister Trudeau is being courted to run for the leadership of the Liberal party, and climaxes with Lévesque and the separatist Parti Québécois seizing "the awesome power of office" in a stunning provincial election victory in 1976. The film follows the two men as they stumble and soar toward the peaks of power and serves as a prequel to a referendum and a political clash over the constitution, which was only then in the making.
Using photos, newsreel footage and interviews with friends and colleagues, The Champions provides a background to 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 and compelling characters, thus making sense of it all as a great passion play. The Champions won four Canadian Film Awards, including Feature Documentary (Brittain, Janet Leissner) and Non-Dramatic Script (Brittain).
Parts I and II of The Champions were released as one feature length film, 113 minutes in length, in 1978.