Bethune: The Making of a Hero

Phillip BorsosCanada / China118 minutes1990PGColourEnglish

Sun
Jan 21
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Actor Colm Feore joins us for a post-film Q&A!

Having made his feature debut in 1982 with a biopic about an outlaw (The Grey Fox, still the best Canadian western ever made), Phillip Borsos elected to chronicle one of this country's most internationally beloved figures, Dr. Norman Bethune, whose political and humanitarian beliefs led him to volunteer during the Second Sino-Japanese war, tending to civilians and soldiers helping bring Western medicine to China.

Based on Ted Allan's script and starring Academy Award honouree Donald Sutherland (in one of the most layered performances of his illustrious career), Bethune: The Making of a Hero was the largest publicly funded Canadian movie at the time, shot in rural China under exceedingly difficult conditions. The Bethune of the film is complicated to say the least: he's irascible and thoroughly convinced he's on the righteous path, yet cannot help but put himself in danger to help people. This sophisticated approach to character lifts the film beyond hagiography and into historical epic, though Borsos and his collaborators are very conscious of the fact that even historical figures have intimate moments (witness Bethune's eventual meeting with Mao). Unfairly viewed with suspicion by film critics at the time (many felt that Canadian films and figures didn't belong on this kind of scale), it remains one of the most ambitious, courageous, and stirring films to emerge out of the 1980s.

STEVE GRAVESTOCK

Ayant réalisé son premier long métrage en 1982, un film biographique sur un bandit (The Grey Fox, qui demeure le meilleur western canadien de tous les temps), Philip Borsos a ensuite choisi de créer le portrait de l'une des figures canadiennes les plus mondialement adulées, le docteur Norman Bethune. Les convictions politiques et humanitaires de ce dernier l'ont incité à se porter volontaire durant la Seconde Guerre sino-japonaise, lors de laquelle il a soigné des civils et des soldats, contribuant ainsi à introduire la médecine occidentale en Chine.

Scénarisé par Ted Allan et mettant en vedette l'acteur honoré aux Academy Awards Donald Sutherland (dans l'une des performances les plus riches de son illustre carrière), Bethune : L'étoffe d'un héros était le film canadien publiquement financé au plus gros budget de son époque. Tourné en Chine rurale dans des conditions extrêmement difficiles, le film présente un Bethune pour le moins complexe : un homme irritable, entièrement convaincu qu'il est sur le droit chemin, mais incapable de ne pas se mettre en danger pour aider les gens. Cette approche sophistiquée du personnage élève le film au-delà de l'hagiographie et donne lieu à un récit historique épique, bien que Borsos et ses collaborateurs soient pleinement conscients que même les figures historiques vivent des moments intimes (par exemple, la rencontre éventuelle entre Bethune et Mao). Injustement accueilli avec méfiance par les critiques au moment de sa sortie (plusieurs croyaient que le cinéma canadien et ses personnages étaient mal servis par une production de cette envergure), le film demeure néanmoins l'une des œuvres les plus ambitieuses, courageuses et émouvantes à avoir vu le jour dans les années 1980.

director
Phillip Borsos

Phillip Borsos was born in Tasmania and soon thereafter moved to Trail, British Columbia. His first short film, Nails (79), received an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary, Short Subject and his first feature, The Grey Fox (82), won seven Genie Awards, including Best Achievement in Direction and Best Motion Picture. His other features include The Mean Season (85), One Magic Christmas (85), Bethune: The Making of a Hero (90), which premiered at TIFF, and Far From Home: Adventures of the Yellow Dog (95).

Additional Credits

Director
Phillip Borsos