A documentary by Nettie Wild. Rated PG
Doc maker Nettie Wild’s peripatetic camera captures many facets of life in B.C.’s fast-changing Far North, as mining interests seek to scrape resources from land on which First Nations people struggle to survive.
Gorgeously shot by Van Royko (who also lensed the beautiful Monsoon), the fast-moving doc is no polemic. It sticks to kaleidoscopic impressions of a sometimes dreamlike landscape, and lets viewers decide how they feel about what they’re seeing. The famously fearless Wild usually inserts herself more willfully into her docs (like Blockade and A Place Called Chiapas), but here she remains an off-screen provocateur, skillfully steering her human subjects into highly personal observations about this majestic topography and their relationships with it.
On the one hand, you have miners, engineers, and roughnecks who are alternately developing and exploiting remote regions of this gigantic province. Some, like a geologist who shows off his spectacular core samples, are quite eloquent. But even while contemplating nature’s vast creations, they are necessarily specialized in their attitudes. The humans who live, hunt, and create in the northwestern territory associated with the Tahltan Nation, whether native leaders or white settlers who live off the land, take a more holistic view of their home, in both its bounty and its fragility. They worry about how quickly an environment can be permanently wrecked even as they want to welcome jobs and infrastructure.
Most prominent among these is Oscar Dennis, a widely educated Tahltan man who returned to the Iskat area to document his ancestral tongue before it dies out. The film, which won best feature at this year’s Hot Docs fest in Toronto, expands that concept to the visual realm, asking us to understand the language of people who dwell in the far reaches of this super, natural place.