TWAIN [2012] ISBN 987-0-9878862-2-4



Order the TWAIN feature-length dvd online from the Winnipeg Film Group:


TWAIN is a feature-length documentary [approximately 92 minutes]
originally recorded in August 2008 on the train from Winnipeg to Churchill
(AND BACK!). The documentary is an acurate portrayal of what this true Canadian
expedition is really like... "It had to be a feature-length documentary to replicate
the duration of time endured during our interminable ordeal".

The project was initiated when the film's director, Gregory Zbitnew,
was invited to present his documentary 'MUSKEG SPECIAL' to about 50 members
of the Canadian Chapter of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW),
which held its annual meeting onboard the chartered excursion.
Reluctantly accompanied by cinematographer Ed Ackerman, the two filmmakers
each recorded their unique perceptions of this epic train journey,
(thus the title TWAIN ~ 'two') with Canon Vixia HD video cameras.

It was the first time the two filmmakers had returned to the Northern Manitoba
rail line since recording Muskeg Special in 1979. "29 years previously we were
able to get off the train in the small northern communities to record interesting
interviews with local inhabitants". This time the destination was the train.

Travellers, who arrive from around the world, often romanticize that the trip
from Winnipeg to Churchill will be an exciting 'holiday adventure', they soon
realize that it is actually quite a gruelling experience. It took us over 80 hours
to travel about 1,000 miles to Churchill. The only opportunity to get off the train
occured during brief stops once every 12 to 14 hours. Then again the train rumbled
and swayed as it crossed the melting permafrost through unbrokennorthern forests.
We were grateful that VIA Rail provided each of us with a 'roomette' and provided meals.
On August 15, 2008, Churchill was the 'hotspot' of Canada, which meant that the
tracks had buckled and heaved from the heat. It took 10 hours to travel the
final 100 miles straight north to Churchill across the desolate flat tundra.

AUGUST 12 ~ Leave Winnipeg, Manitoba 7 PM.
AUGUST 13 ~ Travel through Manitoba and Saskatchewan
AUGUST 14 ~ Arrive The Pas, Manitoba 11 AM.
AUGUST 15 ~ Arrive Churchill, Manitoba 2 AM.
AUGUST 16 ~ Leave Churchill, Manitoba 10 PM.
AUGUST 17 ~ Leave Thompson, Manitoba 10 PM.
AUGUST 18 ~ Leave The Pas, Manitoba 11 AM.
AUGUST 19 ~ Arrive Winnipeg, Manitoba 2AM.

We spent the better part of two days in Churchill, staying at Vera Gould's B+B,
and were fortunate that Brian Ladoon took us to record video of his Husky sled dogs,
and the polar bears that lurked nearby scavaging something to eat.
One fascinating thing we also recorded were strange fuzzy black and white arctic bees.
The Port of Churchill wasunder 'Lockdown' at the time because a Russian
freighter was unloading a cargo of explosive Ammonium Nitrate ~ Imagine,
Canada importing fertilizer...The members of SATW all got to fly out of Churchill
to Winnipeg, while Ed and Greg had to take the now nearly empty 16 car train
back to Winnipeg for another 3 days.

For us, the return trip was the most difficult part of the journey, and really what this documentary
is all about: "I had often heard tales of people climbing Mt. Everest, but seldom
is written about the descent. After the climbers have achieved the euphoria
of the peak, now low on energy, oxygen and supplies, they must make their way
down 'backwards' over the same challenging terrain they have previously endured....
So too in TWAIN; we revisit several of the same locations we have previously recorded,
but now everything is different.

Approximately 18 hours of HD video were recorded which required 1 terrabyte
of digital storage, which neither of us had access to in 2008. After many failed
attempts to edit the footage at the time, the project was shelved until technology
became affordable enough to create this documentary. This became available in 2012,
with the purchase of a new iMac with an internal terrabyte drive and the wonderful editing software Final Cut Pro X.
Gregory Zbitnew edited the documentary over a period of 5-6 months while caring for his parents in Qualicum Beach, BC.