Montreal·Absolutely Quebec

Documentary captures Verdun playwright's epic struggle to stage work on WW1

In The Good Fight, the filmmakers chronicle the near-Sisyphean feat of Davd Fennario's struggle to mount his play Motherhouse, about the First World War's devastating effect on working-class Verdun residents.

Fennario: The Good Fight airs Saturday July 23 at 7 p.m. on CBC

Playwright and social activist David Fennario tells the story of Verdun's participation in the First World War in his play Motherhouse. (Productions Adobe International)

When filmmakers Sergio Kirby (H2Oil, Roadsworth), Martin Duckworth (No More Hiroshima) and Robbie Hart (I Am Not A Rock Star) teamed up to produce a documentary about prominent Canadian playwright David Fennario, they knew they would be in for an intense ride.

Filmmaker Martin Duckworth documenting Remembrance Day processions in Verdun. (Courtesy Productions Adobe International)

The playwright behind Canadian classics Balconville and Joe Beef may be wheelchair-bound due to the onset of a paralyzing syndrome that has doctors baffled, but he remains a spitfire, a fierce advocate for social justice who brings wry social criticism to his championing of the proletariat.

In The Good Fight, the filmmakers chronicle the near-Sisyphean feat of Fennario's struggle to mount his play Motherhouse, about the First World War's devastating effect on working-class Verdun residents. 

A still from the documentary Fennario: The Good Fight. (Courtesy Productions Adobe International)

As Fennario works with actors to bring to life a historically accurate and psychologically convincing portrayal of Lillabit — an ageless woman who tells her story growing up in Verdun — he confronts his own physical shortcomings and attitudes about his native Verdun.

Documentary creators behind the film, Fennario: The Good Fight (Productions Adobe International)

Ultimately, the film is as much a condemnation of war profiteering as it is a celebration of political theatre, uncovering a piece of Quebec history whose effects persist to this day.

Fennario: The Good Fight airs on CBC Television Saturday, July 23 at 7 p.m. as part of Absolutely Quebec.

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