Giant Mine: larger than life
Dramatization of Yellowknife's darkest days

by Janet Smellie
Northern News Services

NNSL (DEC 06/96) - If the president of the union representing workers at Giant Mine and a mine manager can sit together in a CBC screening room for two hours, then maybe the rest of our community can handle this movie.


Giant Mine, a 90-minute dramatization of the catastrophic strike is not a documentary but a fictionalized account from the pens of veteran screenwriter John Hunter and former Globe and Mail reporter Martin O'Malley.

Centre-stage is Chris Neil (Thomas Mitchell), the $100,000-a-year miner who, crosses the picket line and convinces his best friend, Jim O'Neil (Peter Outerbridge) to join him.

The death threats, the dream of becoming full-time pilots and the friendship between the two men is a major theme.

While it's easy to understand that the majority of the filming had to be done in Kirkland Lake because of a small budget, it's tacky to watch Jim O'Neil reach for a beer from his lawnchair while crickets that couldn't survive in Yellowknife singing merrily away.

Also interesting to see was the huge CASAW office with its hardwood floors, instead of the cramped quarters that housed the real union office during the dispute.

One wonders why CBC Radio reporter Joclyn Cozac was cast in her own name, yet RCMP Sgt. Dave Grundy was nowhere to be seen, replaced by Sgt. Joe Charlie, an aboriginal who plays a friend to all sides.

Then there's Peggy Witte (Alberta Watson), who turns out to be a svelte, vibrant woman able to cross her legs whiling playing a piano, instead of the less-fashionable, robust person Witte is in real life.

And of course, there's Roger Warren (Frank Moore) as a cool and calculating miner who spouts lines the likes of "It only takes one worm to ruin the apple" and "when blood gets angry you do things."

CBC executive Brian Freeman says he expects to elicit three reactions from Yellowknifers.

"Some will do their best to simply ignore it, not watch it at all. Some will watch it but resist what they see. And then others, despite the implications of themselves, will turn it into the beginning of their healing."

Whatever. At least the waiting is over. Giant Mines airs Sunday night at 9 p.m. MT. on CBC-TV.