ANAVETS Shoulder to Shoulder

May 2019

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A fter travelling across Canada for the past 11 months interviewing the country's last living Second World War veterans, Eric Brunt reflects on his gratifying, inspiring and emotional experience. "I was only supposed to be gone four months," he says. "My friends and family thought I wouldn't last more than one. I've surprised even myself." Motivated by the hundreds of veterans he has interviewed, the 26-year-old filmmaker from British Columbia arrived in Newfoundland in April and now he is piecing together a film project that he began after graduating from the University of British Columbia's (UBC) film production program. His mission was to travel across Canada documenting stories of veterans – all of whom are over 90 years old. "My Grandpa was a Second World War veteran in the RCAF," Brunt explains, reflecting on the reason he embarked on such a massive project. "He served from 1940 to 1945 all over Canada as a wireless operator in training schools for navigators. "He had lots of stories and lived to the age of 95, but I failed to record those stories. I decided to remedy this failure by trying to record other veterans' stories." His final product will be a feature length documentary titled "Last Ones Standing." Unsure and a bit timid at first, the young filmmaker quickly gained confidence and excitement with each interview and he says the kindness and trust he has experienced was overwhelming. "I never thought I would be welcomed into so many strangers' lives," he said. "Initially, I will admit I was a bit nervous walking into a stranger's home. So many generations apart, what did we have in common?" It turns out the conversations flowed easily from coast to coast. Backed by donations to a GoFundme page , Brunt left Victoria last May in a small, white van — camping through the summer, and staying at Airbnbs in cold weather — finding veterans and encouragement along his way. "I started interviewing veterans in the Vancouver area and discovered there were many men and women who served during the war in many capacities who had stories to tell. "I asked them 'What was it like when they were my age?' because a lot of them were my age during the war." As he contemplates the journey back home, Brunt says he is pleased that he has conducted more than 330 interviews — some with men and women who have never told their story to anyone, not even family. 14 SHOULDER TO SHOULDER Last Ones Standing By Robin MacLennan

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