Colleen's thoughts on writing, directing and coaching, and her unique take on life itself!

Monday, September 07, 2009

Canadian Television - CBC - does it again

For being a nation with the reputation for being so nice - and politically a little passive - its national television network, the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) has the courage to dramatically tackle hard-hitting, significant and urgent subjects US networks would never go near.

While premium US cable channels do take on some challenging issues, they still pale in comparison to what Canada bravely exposes its viewers.

Just a few examples are The Boys from St. Vincent - a tough, controversial drama about pedophilia in the Catholic church. That was in 1992. Of course there was a tumultuous response from many in the church, but the accuracy and lack of melodrama in the miniseries won out and audiences were confronted with a grievous part of our history.

Not just by the offending priests, but others who stood by and watched the treacherous abuse of young boys, those who covered up the nauseating treatment of innocent boys in the care of a Catholic orphanage without no accountability or punishment for their crimes.

I've always maintained that we can't heal a wound until we uncover it to diagnose it properly in order to figure out how to cure it. It's the proper role of journalism to shine the light of day on these issues, but in many cases that role is assumed by filmmakers more and more.

Perhaps that should be more and Moore. ;-)

Another example: The Last Chapter. This 2002 CBC mini-series involved biker gangs connected to organized crime, with some pretty horrific details of how the drug and other criminal activities have been linked to those biker gangs presented in this series.

It showed how these thugs are connected with upscale, "upstanding" citizens; how the organized criminal higher-ups have no qualms about threatening or harming families of politicians and law enforcement officers trying to shut them down.

It's a harsh reality around the world - only last weekend a Mexican politician who opposes the drug cartel was killed - with his wife and children - all shot to death.

Iron Road. This 2009 Canada-China co-production tells the story of Chinese immigrants - willing and unwilling - who built the railroad tracks across the nation. How these workers were treated, mistreated, killed and exploited in the name of building a railroad, modernization and economic progress.

In some cases incredible abuse of the workers was caused from racial ignorance, in other cases because of greed (Chinese workers were explosives experts and short fuses were used for the dynamite because longer fuses were more expensive, constantly putting the men blasting through mountains and terrain in jeopardy), and Chinese workers were considered "less than" their white bosses.

Most recently, CBC-TV tackled an issue about which American television would for sure find their hands tied: GUNS. How gun trafficking works, how violence grows because of the increasingly easy availability of non-sporting guns in North America, the economics of gun running, how innocent people are constantly hurt or killed as collateral damage, and, again, the ties of powerful people not necessarily seen as being connected with those activities playing a role in keeping the guns moving.

Most interestingly, this miniseries sees the issue of the inflow of non-sporting guns as a growing significant issue in a nation where gun violence is only about 12% of that per 100,000 people compared to American gun violence statistics.

I think dramatically The Boys of St. Vincent is the extraordinary standout for writing and filmmaking, but each of these programs has more guts in their presentation because they strive to get it right. As shocking as much of the information and scenes have been, there is always the sense that there are good people working to make the world a little better, a little safer, for the rest of us not directly involved in these nightmares - and that they remain in danger as long as they are fighting people who have no respect for humankind, whose goal is only to make money off the blood and destroyed lives of others.

Interestingly, the one thing that has been a real glimmer of hope is that the kids of the gangsters and criminals who have made their millions and billions from the pain of others - directly and indirectly - tend not to want to follow in the fouled footsteps of their parents, even though their parents have drawn them into their businesses to some degree.

We are left with the impression the kids want to get away from these scummy situations and live their own lives with integrity and clear consciences.

There's a lot to be said for the generation gap in these situations.

And there's a lot to be said for the courage of CBC-TV, taking the heat for controversial programming that enlightens, informs and tells important stories we need to hear.

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