Heaven or Not

200726 min 59 secFilm: Documentary

Direction: Zuzana Hudackova

Production: Danijel Margetic (Balkan Films Inc.)Anita Lee (National Film Board of Canada)Lea MarinSilva Basmajian

Script: Danijel MargeticZuzana Hudackova

Co-produced by Balkan Films Inc. and the National Film Board of Canada.

Filmed in the quaint prairie town of Herbert, Saskatchewan, Heaven or Not by filmmakers Zuzana Hudackova and Danijel Margetic is an intimate portrayal of one man's tireless journey to give his life greater meaning.

John Gerbrandt, a WWII veteran, has been singlehandedly building a 7,000-square-foot house over the past three decades with nothing more than his pension and salvaged materials. With no formal training, he is fuelled by a powerful determination to prove his worth to his God, his family and his community. John's story transcends day-to-day life in a small town and reaches the realm of deep spirituality marked by an unwavering commitment.

Now at the age of 84, suffering from health problems and the financial burden of property taxes, John might not be able to finish his lifelong endeavour. His desire to build the highest peak in the town of Herbert now faces the greatest obstacle of all - time. This massive house, half completed, has been viewed by many in the community as an eyesore over the years - a constant construction site that is unsafe for visitors.

Masterfully shot, replete with the nostalgic beauty of the picturesque surroundings, the film begins to reveal the house from the point of view of this small-town community. Gradually, we see the true nature of the townspeople's misgivings unfold.

John's story is one of quiet personal strength and the power of the mind. It shows us how one man, with a profound sense of duty and courage in his faith, can achieve greatness, even if it exists solely within the context of his relationship with his creator.


Subject categories

  • Social Issues > Canadian Communities
  • Technology > Construction
  • Seniors > Portraits
  • Environment and Conservation > Recycling and Waste Disposal
  • National Security and Defence > Veterans
  • War, Conflict and Peace > War Veterans


Zuzana Hudackova
Danijel Margetic
Danijel Margetic
Zuzana Hudackova
Anita Lee
Lea Marin
commissioning editor
Rudy Buttignol
executive producer
Silva Basmajian
director of photography
Daniel Grant
2nd unit camera
Danijel Margetic
camera assistant
Damien Kent
sound recordist
Marcy Clowry
on-set photographer
Zuzana Hudackova
Maryam Ghorbankarimi
dialogue editor
Joe Mancuso
sound effects editor
John Loranger
re-recording engineer
Joe Mancuso
John Dykstra
Colin Moore
Anthony Gerbrandt
production supervisor
Mark Wilson
technical coordinator
Branden Bratuhin
production coordinator
Christine Kleckner
Corinne Herman
marketing manager
Nataly Spudic
marketing coordinator
Donna Cowan
administration coordinator
Joanne Forrest
centre administrator
Raymond Chua
post-production services
Technicolor Creative Services
original music composer
Will Whitwham
original music performer
Will Whitwham
music recording
Joe Mancuso