Another Perspective on the Life and Times of Bruce Cockburn

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14 November 2001 -- Television journalist Nadine Pequeneza worked closely with Bruce during the production of the 'Life and Times of Bruce Cockburn'. She is an award winning documentary director/writer whose work centers on human rights and social issues. Her work has appeared on the Discovery Channel, Life Network, History Television, CBC and The Learning Channel.

The Cockburn Project contacted Nadine at the suggestion of Robert Lang and she was very candid and informative. When asked what brought her to the point of working on this production she noted, "Bob and I brought two very different perspectives to this project. As a long-time friend, and fan of Bruce Cockburn, Bob had a very good sense of his personal and professional evolution. I am of a different generation than both Bob and Bruce. Being 32, Bruce's music hit me much later, when he was beginning to incorporate politics into his art. I'm a fan of his music, but I was a fan of his politics first. As a director I've concentrated on human rights stories, and I am moved by Bruce's lyrics. It's one of the main reasons I wanted to do this film. It's ironic Bob and I both suggested the idea to CBC at different times, and then ended up meeting and working with one another a year later, which lead to this film."

Bruce performing at the Music Without Borders concert. "We began shooting in February of this year, and just completed the fine cut now (November, 2001). I am an independent director, so I was working on other projects during this time, but I am very pleased that we were able to shoot over such an extended period of time. It allowed us to get Bruce in a variety of settings and circumstances that would not have been possible with a shorter shooting schedule. For example, we were able to shoot Bruce moving, recording in studio, and performing at a Canadian concert for Afghan refugees. There's no way we could have done that in one month."

One aspect of Nadine's work on this project was to collect archival information and she found there was a wealth of information available. "There is a tremendous amount of archival material on Bruce Cockburn, mostly owned by CBC. Although Bruce was documented by some independents, like Syd Banks who produced a variety show in 1969 called, "One More Time", and Morley Markson, who directed what was probably one of the first music videos ever made for 3's a Crowd. Bruce's parents also filmed a lot of home movies on Super 8, which turned out to be very important to the piece. Much Music has a number of extended interviews which were useful for research purposes. There was no shortage of Bruce on film."

Nadine was more familiar with the politics of Bruce Cockburn than "the man" Bruce Cockburn, but he made a lasting impression on her. "I was most familiar with Bruce's political songs, that's what got my attention about 15 years ago. He always seemed to me to be someone with a great deal of integrity. Meeting him only reinforced that opinion. He is one of the most genuine people I've ever come across. And for that reason it was wonderful to work with him. That's not to say he gave me everything I wanted in terms of his story. But he was very clear about what he was and was not comfortable talking about. Bruce is a very private person, and rather than fight against that, I decided to make it part of the story."

Nadine noted that there was one other thing that impressed her about Bruce Cockburn, "I had to get some very close-up shots of his handwriting from one of his notebooks which he uses to jot down all of his observations and thoughts. He sent what is essentially a diary to me with certain pages marked and a note, "There's a lot of personal stuff in here. I'm trusting you to just look at the pertinent part. Thanks, B." That's impressive."

The highlight of this project for Nadine was that she interviewed Bruce. "By the time I sat down to interview Bruce, I had read numerous articles and watched just as many taped interviews. I really felt like there was nothing left to ask Bruce; no new information to reveal, but I was wrong. I won't give away what Bruce told us, but I think there will always be something new or surprising about him, because he's forever changing. Aside from being one of the most genuine people I've ever met, he's also one of the most introspective."

Asked if there were any disappointments or things that went wrong she responded, "In terms of what went wrong, there never seems to be enough time to include all the people, or stories that are relevant to a person's development. An hour isn't a lot of time to examine someone's life, especially the one lived by Bruce Cockburn. So my regret is that we didn't have more time, but Bob Lang, the producer, may remedy that with a longer version of "My Beat". Bob has a wealth of material from our shoots that we were unable to include."

The CBC show, 'The Life and Times of Bruce Cockburn' will air at 7:00 p.m. across Canada on November 27th. According to Robert Lang there are plans in the works to contact stations in the US for a future airing. There are also plans to release the show on video or DVD in the future. Keep watching The Cockburn Project for updates and go here for more info on the Life and Times show and Bob Lang.

Suzanne DeMuth Myers

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This page is part of The Cockburn Project, a unique website that exists to document the work of Canadian singer-songwriter and musician Bruce Cockburn. The Project archives self-commentary by Cockburn on his songs and music, and supplements this core part of the website with news, tour dates, and other current information.