Fractured Land establishes solid ground

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      A documentary by Damien Gillis and Fiona Rayher. Rating unavailable.

      Even in a crowded field of documentary subjects, it’s hard to imagine meeting someone more admirable than environmental activist Caleb Behn. A handsome, super-articulate young man from B.C.’s Peace Country, he’s a sharp critic of government bodies and corporate reps who pillage treaty lands with minimal oversight. He’s also a dab hand with hatchet and hunting rifle, and has worked hard to keep old ways alive.

      With his tattoos and Mohawk hair, Behn is seen finishing law studies at UVic, with the aim of holding the fracking onslaught in check. He’s the affectionate son of a Cree mother and former chief who works for the oil industry and a Dene father who’s also a gentle activist. This balancing act has characterized his whole life, which began with a cleft palate he’s sure came from water contamination already rampant in northeastern B.C. a quarter-century ago.

      Behn’s education, and ours, is followed—all the way to New Zealand, which is facing a similar environmental crisis, and back—by directors Damien Gillis and Fiona Rayher. Their visual aesthetics, atmospheric music, and smart graphics go way beyond what’s needed for the story, adding a layer of sheer physical beauty that’s its own argument for preserving what’s left of our sadly abused land. That’s just one reason the 75-minute work was named best B.C. film at this year’s VIFF.

      A big part of Behn’s personal appeal, and his efficacy, comes with his hard-won skill at inducing sympathetic, sometimes even honest, responses from people on the other side of the ideological divide. “On a deeper level, we all feel fractured,” says one petroleum-industry spokeswoman, during an informal meeting in Calgary. That’s certainly a far more introspective thought than anything ever uttered by Smiler-in-Chief Christy Clark, here seen hawking LNG even as the market collapses.

      Fractured Land does a lot to tell us where we are in 2015. And its most important message is that Canada’s native peoples are a more valuable resource than anything we can pull out of the ground.