Photos are screenshots from the movie KONELINE
Filmmaker Nettie Wild has never seen the mine near Revelstoke she inherited, but her involvement in the family mining business helped her to film her latest documentary.
“I’m known in the world as this person who goes out and films revolutions and social movements and all the rest of it,” she told me. “In the background, while I was a kid, there was always the family mine.”
The tungsten mine, located just east of Mount Revelstoke National Park, was owned by her grandfather, then her mother, then, eventually, Wild found herself in charge.
“I was in this peculiar position of filming revolutions around the world and jumping on my bike and going downtown and attending these mining meetings,” she said, adding once she was mistaken for the bike courier.
Wild’s family history, combined with her documentary filmmaking experience came together for her new work.
She was exploring the wilderness of northwestern B.C. in 2012, travelling by horseback and sating her wanderlust, when she was struck by the ways the landscape was transforming before her eyes.
“I was becoming aware of the fact that huge change was coming to the land and the people up there, and I started to think, ‘If I’m going to do something, I better do it now.'”
So she set out to make KONELINE: our land beautiful, which is showing at the Roxy Theatre on Thursday, Mar. 9, at 7 p.m.
Wild wanted to capture the beauty she was experiencing from her own unique perspective as a filmmaker and a mine owner. As her expectations were subverted over and over again, she realized that she was in a unique position to deliver “art, rather than a polemic.”
“If people catch even a whiff of judgement, they close down,” she said.
Rapid industrial development in northwestern BC, especially mining and logging, have in recent years pitted the Tahltan First Nation against the provincial government. But it has also created challenges within the Tahltan community, which simultaneously wants to preserve the wilderness and enjoy the economic opportunities mining provides.
“We wanted to present complexity instead of over-simplified answers,” Wild said. “If you bring curiosity to a conversation with someone you perceive as being on the other side of the fence from you, but genuinely want to figure out how they work and spend time with them, I think that’s a radical act.”
“I had one (First Nations) diamond driller I met, and he talked a lot about the fact he loves being in the bush, he loves his job and being able to support his family, but he doesn’t like that his elders are protesting against him,” she said.
“That was a jaw-dropper for me.”
Wild was also able to talk to people in the mining industry, using her family history to get in the door.
“The biggest thing is because I knew a few hearts that beat in the mining industry because of my family, I wasn’t going to be death,” she said. “I didn’t have those assumptions that I think many people do that all is evil there. I think that attitude allowed me in as much as having the mine in my hip pocket.”
The main character of the movie is the landscape.
“We did most of the principal photography throughout 2014, and we went multiple times throughout the year. We had to get the land going through winter and summer, and we wanted to get a sense of the people who stay behind when everyone else goes south. It was a matter of finding various people and capturing the poetry in how they live.”
And “finding the poetry” in unusual places is pretty much her entire goal, as evidenced by one scene shot in extreme slow-motion that shows a controversial transmission line. Shot in Cinescope, it’s meant to have a Lawrence of Arabia-style grandiosity. Wild was buoyed by the response of one audience member her approached her after the film.
“I think that was maybe my favourite review. She said ‘I hate that transmission line, but I sure do love that scene in the movie’.”
And even the workers themselves were amazed. She was showing them a new way to look at their own machinery.
“We invited them over and had a tailgate screening, and they were absolutely blown away. They said, ‘We’ve never seen anything like that.'”
Wild hopes you will reach the end of the film with more questions, not less. She believes environmentalists and people working in extractive industries need to find ways to connect despite their differences.
She will be on hand to answer questions following the screening in Revelstoke next week.
KONELINE: our land beautiful, is being shown at the Roxy Theatre on Thursday, Mar. 9, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance, available at Valhalla Pure and Rough Country Marine, or $12 at the door.
With reporting from Will Johnson, Black Press