Now Streaming: NFB’s ‘High Wire’ Sees Canadian Diplomacy at Its Finest

Paul Heinbecker, retired Canadian ambassador, permanent representative of Canada to the United Nations, 2000-2004
Courtesy of the NFB

By Pat Mullen

Revisit a tense chapter of Canadian history in High Wire. The film, released today for free streaming from the NFB, High Wire chronicles Canada’s decision to defy pressure from American allies and decline to participate in the invasion of Iraq. Director Claude Guilmain assembles all the key players from the war room, most notably former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, to deliver a tautly composed talking heads essay on Canadian diplomacy. From Bush’s unexpected performance after 9/11 to his darkest blunder in declaring war in Iraq, the film revisits a tumultuous chapter of history through the eyes of policy makers and level-headed veterans. It’s a refreshing portrait of Canada’s ability to be a voice of reason on the international stage.

“High Wire is a rare offering of the Canadian perspective on the affair [of the invasion of Iraq],” we noted in our review of the film. “It offers a portrait of strong leadership and exemplifies the role on the world stage that our nation embodies best: that of the peacekeeper. One could obviously extend the message to the bully south of the border today, but the film leaves audiences reassured that sunny ways will prevail against the USA’s shadow.”

Synopsis: High Wire examines the reasons that Canada declined to take part in the 2003 US-led military mission in Iraq, shining a spotlight on the diplomatic tug of war that took place behind the scenes with our neighbours to the south, who have often adopted an interventionist foreign policy to serve their own economic and geopolitical interests. Canada’s historic refusal could have had disastrous consequences, but a number of key players and other analysts remind us of the terrible price we pay when diplomacy fails.

Watch High Wire below from the NFB:

High Wire, Claude Guilmain, provided by the National Film Board of Canada