MONTREAL -- John Walker, one of Canada’s finest film directors, says he likes to tell stories that most people know very little about because it makes it easy to open their eyes.
That’s why when he was approached to direct ‘Playing a Dangerous Game’, the fourth documentary in TSN’s ‘Engraved on a Nation’, his interest peaked.
Walker is, after all, a native of Montreal, and while playing high school football as a kid he grew up cheering for the Alouettes, along with star players like Hal Patterson and Sam Etcheverry.
But he also knew it was going to be a new challenge for him; it was something he had never done before.
“When I was approached to do a sports documentary, I thought, ‘I haven’t made a sports documentary before’,” Walker recalls.
“But I quickly realized that with a sports documentary, it’s not really about the game. It’s about characters and individuals and storytelling, and that’s really what they were looking for.”
The story is set in Montreal in the midst of the FLQ Crisis, when Jake Gaudaur was the commissioner of the CFL and Pierre Elliott Trudeau was the Prime Minister of Canada.
Whereas Trudeau saw Quebec as pivotal to Canada’s success as a country, Gaudaur similarly believed that in order for football to thrive in Canada, there needed to be strength in Montreal.
Despite the dangers of ongoing terrorism and a general fear among the population, Gaudaur decided to hold the 1969 Grey Cup in Montreal, in an effort to engage francophones and to start the long process of turning football around in the province of Quebec to become a truly bilingual sport.
It didn’t come without its dangers though, as the threat from the FLQ was in everyone’s mind, with the scale of security at the Grey Cup game that year at a mind-blowing level.
With ‘Playing a Dangerous Game’, Walker faced the challenge of melding sport with politics with the story of the ’69 Grey Cup game against the backdrop of an infamous terrorist crisis that truly threatened the lives of Canadians.
He knew that if he was going to intertwine sport and politics into a larger context, he would need strong characters from each side.
The first character, Russ Jackson, was easy. He was awarded as Canada’s top athlete in 1969 and a year later, received the Order of Canada.
“I knew I had a very strong person there, that knew the game well at the time and had a good memory, and of course that was at the end of his career,” says Walker. “It was a fairytale end to his career, one of the great Canadian heroes.”
|2||Blue Bombers||DE||Mulumba, Andy|
|3||Alouettes via EDM||LB||Edem, Mike|