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Victoria filmmaker's 5-year, cross-country journey interviewing Canada's remaining WWII vets

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Eric Brunt was a UBC film student in 2016 when his grandfather died at the ripe old age of 95.

Clifford Brunt was a Second World War veteran, but his grandson didn’t know much about his service. It inspired Brunt to do a school project interviewing other local veterans.

”It was 10 men to begin with in Vancouver and Victoria. And I fell in the love with the process of being welcomed into their homes and into their lives,” said Brunt, who now lives in Montreal and works for Melki Films.

Since those first interviews in 2016, the project has grown to include 507 Second World War veterans from all across Canada.

“The final end product, all my interviews are going to be in the Canadian War Museum as part of their database, and this database is going to be accessible to the public for free. And they’re also going to create a digital exhibition using some of my work,” said Brunt, who is dropping off hard drives of the first 200 interviews at the war museum in Ottawa on Tuesday.

“Whatever they feel comfortable sharing with me, I view that as a little treasure of their story that needs to be preserved, and it’s my job and now the war museum’s job to keep that safe.”

While most Canadians pause to remember war veterans on Remembrance Day, Brunt has heard the stories of the men and women who served for the past five years.

“This is every day of my life, I’m listening to these stories, and it really helps me appreciate my life, the freedom I have, the ability I have to do the work that I do,” he said. “We have the one day, but these veterans live with this every single day of their lives. They think about these events, some of them are haunted by them, so they try and forget and never will.”

While the stories he heard were all unique, they had one thing in common.

“All these veterans tell me war is hell, it’s a terrible thing,” said Brunt. “War has to be avoided at all costs, and never glorify war. That’s not what Remembrance Day is about, that’s not what the project is about.”

“That’s what I hope this project gets across that if we know how bad war is, it’s something we won’t – at least in Canada – repeat.”

With wars now raging in Ukraine and Gaza, Brunt says the words of the veterans carry even more weight today.

“It’s all part of our history all part of the fabric of who we are as Canadians today, and it’s important to learn, now more than ever,” he said.

The 507 interviews should be added to the Canadian War Museum database by the end of 2024.   

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