After his grandfather died at age 95 in 2013, Eric Brunt deeply regretted not recording his stories about being in the air force during the Second World War.
Brunt’s father suggested, why not film the stories of other Canadian veterans? “He told me, ‘A lot of them are younger than your grandfather,’” who was 21 when the war started, recalled Brunt.
The history buff and graduate of the University of British Columbia film school thought “It could be interesting…” so he began interviewing a few Vancouver-area veterans. The small project has since snowballed into an epic, cross-country journey.
Brunt, who’s completed 53 interviews across British Columbia so far, is intent on talking to as many veterans as he can. He’s driving his van to St. John’s NFL. this summer, making multiple stops along the way.
The filmmaker, who runs his own videography company, plans to be in Red Deer from June 11-15 . Local veterans who are interested in sharing their Second World War experiences for a documentary Brunt is making, can contact him at 1-778-714-0071 to set up an interview.
The War Generation fascinates the 25-year-old. Hardened by the Depression and immensely loyal to their country, Second World War veterans, now in their mid-to-late 90s, “made an amazing amount of sacrifice,” Brunt concluded.
Their degree of suffering and determination can be hard to understand, he added. “That kind of courage is amazing to see — and they have told me they would do it again, because it’s was what was right.”
Of the many interviews Brunt has done, two in particular stand out for him.
A veteran in Qualicum Beach, on Vancouver Island, had to be convinced by a friend speak to him. “He had never told some of these stories to anyone — not even his wife.” Brunt spent three hours listening to the man reveal what it felt like to lose some of this best friends on the Italian front.
“I think it felt good for him to finally get (these stories) off his chest… I know it was an honour for me to be the first one to hear them.”
At certain moments, both Brunt and the veteran were in tears. “It was an incredible experience…”
Another veteran of the Italian Campaign was 97 when he went before Brunt’s camera. “A week later, he passed away, and his family was so happy that I had three hours of footage, so they could watch him tell his life story again.”
While Brunt plans to edit the extensive footage into a feature-length film for festivals, he will make the uncut footage available to the veterans’ families — or possibly even museums.
If there’s one thing the experience has taught him is that everyone should pay attention to family stories. “Don’t take what you have for granted,” Brunt cautioned — because a time will come when you’ll wish you could hear the stories again.