This Remembrance Day in Canada marks the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. In the early morning hours of April 9, 1917, all four divisions of the Canadian Corps combined with the British XVII Corps to fight against three divisions of the German Sixth Army. The ensuing battle allowed the Allies to secure tactical ground for its eventual defeat of Germany in the Great War. The win at Vimy resulted in heavy losses for Canada: 3,598 soldiers were killed among 10,602 casualties.
Up to this point, many generations of Canadians have seen the images of the First and Second World Wars through black and white photographs and film. A recently-released short film, through a partnership between the Vimy Foundation and the National Film Board, attempts to reconnect Canadians both young and old to the Vimy Ridge Battle story in a unique and colourful way.
Written and produced by Denis McCready, Return to Vimy (2017) is a 9-minute short in which a young Canadian woman visits the Vimy Ridge Memorial in order to find make a charcoal imprint of her great-grandfather’s name. She brings with her to the monument her grandfather’s notebook of diary writings and sketches. The sketches come to life and, with never seen before NFB film archive colorized for the first time, the woman’s grandfather begins to paint a more personal and detailed picture of life in the trenches during the days leading up to the infamous battle. Watch the entire film below:
“Many Canadians today see the First World War through a series of faded black-and-white photos and grainy video footage, disconnected from their modern reality,” said Jeremy Diamond, Executive Director of the Vimy Foundation. “Colourizing these events brings a new focus to our understanding and appreciation of Canada’s giant event during the First World War.
Claude Joli-Coeur, Government Film Commissioner and NFB Chairperson also said, “Return to Vimy combines innovative storytelling and advancements in digital colourization to breathe new life into archival materials and bring this pivotal moment in Canadian history back to life for audiences of all ages. As Canada’s public producer, we’ve been telling our country’s stories and sharing our history since 1939; during times of peace as well as on the frontlines when Canada has been in combat.”
Short Film Fan Review
The spoken word of the diary entries presents the Battle of Vimy Ridge in a more personal and intimate light. The colourization of the old film footage was particularly well done and it adds a new dimension and life to these images of long ago. In fact, the quality of the colour and the restored film makes it look like as if the battle took place in more modern times. The decision to colourize has the potential to cause a certain “cool factor” among those who may consider old black and white imagery as too old fashioned or dull. Altogether, Return to Vimy could very well be instrumental in reigniting an interest among today’s generation of Canadians to learn more about this important part of Canadian history.
Take the time to watch Return to Vimy on this Remembrance Day and let’s pay tribute to those who gave their lives so that we could live our lives in freedom and in peace.