The Wars (film)

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The Wars
Directed by Robin Phillips
Produced byRichard Nielsen
Written by Timothy Findley
Based on The Wars by Timothy Findley
Starring Brent Carver
William Hutt
Martha Henry
Music by Glenn Gould
Cinematography John Coquillon
Edited byTony Lower
Nielsen-Ferns International
National Film Board of Canada
Distributed byInternational Spectrafilm
Release date
  • March 20, 1983 (1983-03-20)
Running time
120 minutes

The Wars is a Canadian drama film, directed by Robin Phillips and released in 1983. [1] An adaptation of the novel The Wars by Timothy Findley, the film centres on Robert Ross (Brent Carver), the immature and closeted gay son of an upper class Rosedale family who enlists to serve in the Canadian Army during World War I. [2]


As with the novel, the film blends a number of scenes set at war with depictions of the formative experiences from childhood that have led Robert to enlist, including his relationships with his disabled sister Rowena (Ann-Marie MacDonald) and their parents (William Hutt and Martha Henry). The cast was drawn predominantly from the stable of actors Phillips had worked with at the Stratford Festival.



The film was produced by Nielsen-Ferns International and the National Film Board of Canada, the first time the NFB had ever collaborated on a narrative feature film with a commercial production company. [3] Shooting began in May 1981 near Longview, Alberta, [3] but within days Phillips had to revise the production schedule due to unforeseen late snowfall in the area. [4]

Other scenes for the film were shot in Calgary, Kleinburg, Hamilton and Montreal. [5] However, due to technical problems with the sound, much of the film had to be rerecorded in the post-production phase, resulting in one of the key delays from the film's originally planned release date of early 1982. [6]


Organizers of the Festival of Festivals attempted to secure the film as the opening gala of the 1982 Festival of Festivals; [7] however, due to a conflict between Nielsen-Ferns, the NFB and key funder Torstar, it was unable to secure the premiere and instead opened with the Australian film We of the Never Never . [8]

Additional production conflict was also reported between Nielsen-Ferns and the NFB, resulting in additional delays in securing distribution. [6] While theatrical distribution in North America and the United Kingdom was still in flux, a subtitled version of the film was broadcast on German television in March 1983. [6]

The film was acquired by Spectrafilm in May 1983 for theatrical distribution, [9] and had its theatrical premiere in November. [10] Its premiere was organized as a fundraising benefit for the Parkinson Foundation of Canada, following Findley's father's death of Parkinson's disease. [10]

Following its initial theatrical run, the film was not widely seen for many years, until it was acquired by the Canada Media Fund for distribution on its Encore+ YouTube channel in 2020. [11]


The film received three Genie Awards from the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television in 1984, for Best Actress (Henry), Best Supporting Actress (Burroughs) and Best Sound Editing (Sharon Lackie, Bruce Nyznik, and Bernard Bordeleau). [12] It was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Editing (Tony Lower), Best Overall Sound (Hans Peter Strobl), and Best Screenplay (Findley). [13]

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  1. Gerald Pratley, A Century of Canadian Cinema. Lynx Images, 2003. ISBN   1-894073-21-5. p. 234.
  2. Jay Scott, "The Wars on film bruises the heart". The Globe and Mail , November 11, 1983.
  3. 1 2 "Robin Phillips turns his hand to movies". The Globe and Mail , May 7, 1981.
  4. "Snow holds up Phillips' movie". The Globe and Mail , May 13, 1981.
  5. Rick Groen, "War rages in the mud of Kleinburg: Robin Phillips wades into his first feature film, recreating the horrors of Flanders". The Globe and Mail , June 13, 1981.
  6. 1 2 3 Carol Off, "Robin Phillips and Timothy Findley discuss the sound and fury of The Wars". Cinema Canada , January 1984. pp. 14-19.
  7. Jay Scott, "Festival opener still unsettled". The Globe and Mail , September 7, 1982.
  8. Jay Scott, "Ending on a negative note: Censor board accused of 'attempting to destroy festival'". The Globe and Mail , September 20, 1982.
  9. Jay Scott, "Distributors form film firm, move to N.Y.". The Globe and Mail , May 7, 1983.
  10. 1 2 "The Wars premiere to be a benefit". The Globe and Mail , November 3, 1983.
  11. "Entertainment news: Movie version of Timothy Findley’s ‘The Wars’ will be seen onscreen for the first time in 35 years". Toronto Star , November 12, 2020.
  12. Jay Scott, "Terry Fox Story wins best picture Genie Eric Fryer, Martha Henry take top acting awards". The Globe and Mail , March 22, 1984.
  13. Jay Scott, "11 nominations for Chapdelaine in Genie race". The Globe and Mail , February 10, 1984.