CTV’s Eli­jah raises a feather

Abo­rig­i­nal leader’s life is pas­sion­ately de­picted

Montreal Gazette - - Arts|television - CANWEST NEWS SER­VICE

Docu­d­ra­mas are a dime a dozen.

Ev­ery so of­ten, though, a docu­d­rama comes along that has style, panache and flair to suc­ceed.

Eli­jah (CTV – 8 p.m.), di­rec­tor Paul Un­win and writer Blake Cor­bet’s fast­paced, ec­cen­tric bi­og­ra­phy of Ru­pert­s­land, Man., abo­rig­i­nal leader Eli­jah Harper, is a de­light. The his­tor­i­cal record is known to any­one who fol­lowed the na­tional news in 1990. With the Meech Lake Ac­cord a seem­ing fait ac­com­pli, Harper raised an ea­gle feather and said “No” to the rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the leg­is­la­tion.

This is daz­zling, con­fi­dent film­mak­ing, writ­ten with un­bri­dled pas­sion and burn­ing with intelligence and wit. Un­win is a Brit who has di­rected Poirot TV movies and Syrup, the BAFTA-nom­i­nated, Cannes Jury Prize-win­ning short film. Cor­bet is a Cal­gary na­tive who pro­duced the home­grown films Mile Zero, The Del­i­cate Art of Park­ing and Miss­ing in Amer­ica.

To­gether they have taken a familiar tale – a young abo­rig­i­nal boy is picked on in school and grows up to be­come a man of sub­stance – and made it some­thing quite spe­cial, with­out re­sort­ing to the mawk­ish, hideous clichés preva­lent in so many dra­ma­tized re-cre­ations.

The cast fea­tures nu­mer­ous well­known names – Cur­rie Gra­ham, Maury Chaykin, Gabrielle Miller, Lorne Car­di­nal, Glen Gould – but it is rel­a­tive un­known Billy Merasty, as Harper, who steals the show. Quite lit­er­ally, as it turns out.

Re­count (The Movie Net­work – 9 p.m.), HBO’s lively retelling of the 2000 U.S. pres­i­den­tial mess-up in Florida, fea­tures familiar names in unfamiliar roles: Kevin Spacey as Al Gore’s chief of staff, Ron Klain; De­nis Leary as Al Gore’s cam­paign man­ager, Michael Whouley; John Hurt as for­mer U.S. sec­re­tary of state War­ren Christo­pher. Why, that’s even Laura Dern as the in­fa­mous Kather­ine Har­ris. Sure, it’s yet an­other dra­ma­tized re-cre­ation. But who knew it would be so top­i­cal?

Re­Ge­n­e­sis (The Movie Net­work – 8 p.m.), the Gemini-nom­i­nated drama that stars Peter Outer­bridge as rogue bio-ge­neti­cist David Sandstrom, reaches the end of its DNA strand in tonight’s se­ries finale, in which Sandstrom tack­les the thorny is­sue of hu­man cloning.

Real life vs. reel life: Who knew Vince Vaughn and Owen Wil­son har­boured so much an­tipa­thy for each other? In real life they prob­a­bly don’t, but reel life is a dif­fer­ent story. Their clay­ma­tion like­nesses settle any and all out­stand­ing scores tonight on Celebrity Death­match (The Com­edy Net­work – 9:30 p.m.).


Rel­a­tive un­known Billy Merasty (cen­tre) steals the show as Eli­jah Harper.

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