Donald Brittain (1924 – 1989) was a Canadian documentary filmmaker who was renowned for his in-depth and thought-provoking documentaries. He was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and had five siblings. After graduating high school he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1943. He worked as a radio operator in England and France during World War II.
After the war, Brittain studied journalism and film at McGill University in Montreal. He began his career as a documentary filmmaker with the National Film Board of Canada in 1951. His first feature-length documentary, The Days Before Christmas (1956), was an exploration of the lives of poor working-class children living in Montreal.
Brittain then went on to produce several award-winning documentaries, such as The Road Ends at the Beach (1958), The World Is Watching (1960), and The Games of ’68 (1968). These documentaries explored topics such as the effects of poverty, the nuclear arms race, and the 1968 Olympics.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Brittain produced several more documentaries, such as The Great Adventure (1972), Remembrance of War (1980), and The Life and Passion of Alan Eagleson (1985). The Life and Passion of Alan Eagleson was particularly controversial, as it featured interviews with former NHL players who accused Eagleson of exploiting them.
In addition to his documentaries, Brittain wrote several books, including his memoir, A Camera in the Village (1987). Brittain was also a prolific painter, and some of his works are featured in the National Gallery of Canada.
Throughout his career, Brittain’s work was recognized with numerous awards, including the Governor General’s Award for English language non-fiction in 1987 and the Canadian Film Award for Best Non-Fiction Film in 1989.
Donald Brittain died in 1989, but his legacy lives on in his documentaries, which are still shown today. He was one of Canada’s most influential documentary filmmakers, and his work continues to inspire generations of filmmakers.