Summary and Recommendations
by the Canadian Senate on the NFB Film
"The Kid Who Couldn't Miss"

"The Kid Who Couldn't Miss" is a highly dramatized and one-sided account of Billy Bishop's life and his exploits while serving with 60 Squadron during World War I. Research for this film overlooked a wealth of Canadian sources, veterans, and expertise on the subject, and concentrated instead on a few British sources. Through the technique of "interviewing" from time to time an actor in the role of Bishop's mechanic, the film gives a false and misleading authority to what is, in the view of most historians, rumour and unpublished speculation. While Mr. Cowan and the National Film Board have every right to express reservations about Bishop's record, your Committee questions whether the public interest is served, as required by the Act establishing the NFB, by representing these rumours, which seem to have arisen some time after the events described, as based on first-hand, eyewitness evidence.
According to Mr. Macerola and Mr. Cowan, "The Kid Who Couldn't Miss" was structured as a "docu-drama" to convey a message "about heroism, about legends, about warfare and about the individuals who fought in those wars, and the chosen few who became symbols of that heroism". As mentioned earlier, the docu-drama is a relatively new and experimental film style that can hover between reality and fiction. Thus "The Kid Who Couldn't Miss" has won international awards from seperate film festivals in both the "documentary" and the "fiction" categories.
Members of the Committee and of the public have strongly objected to the promotion of the film as a "feature-length documentary". Your Committee's and indeed the public's perception of the term "documentary" inevitably brings to mind the qualities of authoritativeness, accuracy, fairness and even-handedness, within the limits of personal objectivity, especially when the National Film Board is involved. These qualities can be present, in our opinion, even in the treatment of historical subjects, where actors must assume the roles of real characters.
Within the film industry, however, the term documentary is used much more broadly. It was pointed out by Mr. Macerola that John Grierson, the founder of the NFB, said that there were many types of documentary film, beginning with the newsreel and continuing through the dramitic field, where such a film may involve "an attack on the emotions or on the imagination", to the poetic. However broadly defined, the object of a documentary remains to capture "fragments of actuality" and combine them meaningfully.
Mr. Macerola acknowledged that the description "documentary" might be misleading. He told the Committee that henceforth the film would carry a statement that it is a docu-drama presenting a perspective on the nature of heroism and the legend of Billy Bishop. Your Committee regrets any distress that may have been caused to the family of Billy Bishop by this film.

RECOMMENDATION

The Committee has unanimously adopted the following recommendation:

That after the titles of the film, the following disclaimer be added:

                                 "This film is a docu-drama and 
                                 combines elements of both reality and 
                                 fiction.  It does not pretend to be an 
                                 even-handed or chronological 
                                 biography of Billy Bishop.

                                 Although a Walter Bourne did serve as
                                 Bishop's mechanic, the film director has
                                 used this character to express his own
                                 doubts and reservations about Bishop's
                                 exploits.  There is no evidence that these
                                 were shared by the real Walter Bourne".

Some members feel that this recommendation does not go far enough.

doc-u-men-ta-ry adj. Also doc-u-men-tal.
  1. Consisting of, concerning, or based upon documents.
  2. Presenting facts objectively without editorializing or inserting fictional matter, as in a book, newspaper account, or film.
Definition of "Documentary" according to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language ©1976
Italics and bold of this definition were added by the owner of this web site.
Hypertext Webster Gateway:
"docu-drama"

From WordNet (r) 1.6 (wn)

docudrama n : a film or TV program presenting the facts about a person or
event [syn: {documentary}, {documentary film}, {infotainment}] 

Definition of "docu-drama" according to the Webster Online dictionary.
Bold effects added by the owner of this site.



Created September 5, 1998
Last updated: October 22, 1998
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