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‘Gino: A Child of War’ is a Vessel for Canadian Pride

Tony Battista answering questions during Q&A period following the film screening (Caleb Hooper/Borden Citizen)

Gino movie inspires CAF crowd in early screening at CFB Borden 

On Friday, 2 February at 1200 and 1600 hrs, members of CFB Borden and the public grabbed their popcorn and drinks at the Terra Theatre where they were treated to a special early screening of a film in its development known as Gino: A Child of War. 

Gino: A Child of War depicts a historical event that many historians thought to be just mere fable. The book turned film finds three Canadian soldiers of the 5th Division RCASC Troop during WWII in Italy, tasked with driving army trucks of fuel and ammunition from northern Cassino, Italy to the outskirts of Rome where the Americans were stationed. After hitting heavy traffic on their route, the Canadians chose to camp for the night and head out at 0300hrs when the roads had cleared.  

Upon exploring some abandoned bomb crates near their camp, the men were pleasantly surprised to discover a five-year-old boy hiding behind them, covered in soot and dirt. His name was Gino Brigalia; an Italian boy who lost his family after his home was caught in a warzone. Gino became an honorary member of the troop as they made deliveries to and from Rome, making him a bright and familiar face for many. 

Executive Producer Tony Battista remembered the first time he heard Brigalia’s story at a speaking event in Frosinone, Italy. Battista cleared his schedule to come see Brigalia speak and he was moved by the story. 

Copies of Gino: A Child of War books which were adapted for the film on sale at the back of the Terra Theatre (Caleb Hooper/Borden Citizen)

“When Gino was talking about his mother who he had lost, my phone rang and my sister in Montreal told us that my mother had just passed on the same day on 16 December 2012,” Battista said. 

Battista described his own personal connection to Brigalia’s story and how he saw aspects of himself in the film, especially given that he lost his own mother at the time. 

“[The film] has a very special meaning for me. Of course, immediately after that I came to Canada for the funeral, but when I went back to Italy to reconnect with the Gino, we talked about our mothers and our friendship grew from there.” 

Battista served in the CAF for over 40 years, ending his career as the Canadian Defence Attaché in Rome.  The necessity of this story, according to Battista, is to demonstrate the “Canadian way” as the film mentions and to become beacons of hope for the next generation. 

“The impressions that children have of adults is extremely important and that’s why it’s so meaningful that we really become good models for them because it will affect them for the rest of their lives,” he said. 

“I had a father who was a prisoner of war in Germany during the war, so there’s a reflection of many things of our lives that we can relate by taking in this story of Gino.” 

Tony Battista answering questions during Q&A period following the film screening (Caleb Hooper/Borden Citizen)

Brigalia is described as a modest and thankful individual who is grateful for the actions of the Canadian soldiers who became his fathers, mothers and brothers during his time with the 5th Division RCASC Troop. 

Brigalia even coined the term “Canadian Guardian Angels” in describing the human dignity that was demonstrated towards him. Battista emphasized that Canadians should see Gino: A Child of War as a vessel for pride that can be shared with civilians, families, members and veterans alike. 

“It’s my firm belief that a story like this one can only bring pride back to those that serve our country,” Battista said. “But equally important and perhaps even more important, is that the military, especially in Canada, cannot survive as a proud profession without the support of its citizens.” 

Gino: A Child of War is on course for 35 more showings around the world in 2024 and it is still being decided whether the film will be adapted for television or a feature film. To support the films dissemination and production, click here. You can also email Tony Battista at tony.battista@me.com for further inquiries. 

By: Caleb Hooper