If there's one theme documentary filmmaker Alexandre Trudeau has found in his travels, it's that the world is becoming increasingly globalized thanks to the information age.
The son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and brother of federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau shares a story about a trip to Papua New Guinea in November 2001, where he was documenting public health efforts in the country.
Trudeau was discussing the implications of the recent 9/11 attacks in the United States with a fellow westerner, when he noticed an exotically dressed Papua New Guinea highlander “glaring” at him.
But after 10 minutes, the man piped up in “very elegant English,” and asked if he thought the United States was going to invade Iraq, as well as Afghanistan.
“He joined the conversation about these events that were happening thousands of kilometres away from his village,” Trudeau said, speaking in Sudbury Oct. 23 at a Sudbury Community Foundation fundraiser.
“It was a revelation to me. Something that I had begun to understand is the world now is without distance when it comes to information.”
He found the same thing when he was filming a documentary in northern Canada, where Inuit families are trying to reconcile their traditional lifestyle with modern activities.
To illustrate his point, Trudeau showed a clip from one of his documentaries which showed one member of a family cutting up caribou meat on the kitchen floor while the rest of the family watches TV in the living room.
While he has spent time in relatively peaceful places such as Canada's north, much of Trudeau's career has been spent documenting what's been happening in war zones such as Iraq or Liberia.
He said he uses the technique of “embedding” himself in the local culture to find out what's happening on the ground.
This method of covering war has often put his life at risk, and he said he's had to quit doing this now that he's a family man with three children.
A clip he showed from a documentary he made about the Iraq war 10 years ago featured scenes from a teenage Iraqi girl's birthday party, and the reasons behind her decision to cover her hair with a hijab.
Trudeau said it makes him sad to watch this documentary now, as these people have still had no respite from war.
His latest documentary, "The New Great Game", was released in 2012. It focuses on the shipping lanes in the Middle East, which are at risk from the instability of nearby countries and pirates.
But Trudeau said conditions are becoming more and more difficult for professional documentary filmmakers such as himself.
He said it's difficult to compete for funding with American filmmakers, where there's audiences 10 times the size of those in Canada.
Because of the advance in technology, more and more people are also creating their own films, which Trudeau said is both good and bad.
“There are teenagers making films with their own means,” he said. “Ultimately that can only be good. It's part of the information revolution. But it is meaning the whole professional sector of documentaries in a crisis.”
Trudeau also spoke with Northern Life about his work with the Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation, which was created to “shore up and celebrate excellence in social sciences and humanities in Canada.”
The foundation gives out grants to the “best young minds” completing doctoral studies in several fields, he said.
It's work that Trudeau feels his father would approve of.
“He was a rationalist and an intellectual, and he believed public service has to have a strong foundation of rational thought and scientific pursuits,” he said. “We've taken inspiration from his desire to put high intellectual work to very practical use.”
Carmen Simmons, executive director of the Sudbury Community Foundation, said the organization brings in a different speaker each year as one of their fundraisers.
She said she thought Trudeau would be a good fit not only because he's had some interesting experiences as a filmmaker, but because he's also involved in a charitable foundation.
“We want to sort of highlight philanthropy and how important it is for our community to give it back,” Simmons said.