Slow-Motion Disaster

Gold fever threatens BC’s stunning wilderness

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Koneline: Our Land Beautiful
Studio 7

Opens April 21

A slow-burning documentary by Nettie Wild, Koneline: Our Land Beautiful depicts the simmering tensions in northern British Columbia between people in a symbiotic relationship with nature, and the disruptive force of mining companies.

While the impending conflict is a great motivator, Nettie Wild takes time to show how mine construction upsets every activity in Tahltan territory. Even something supposedly benign as the power grid reaching further up the northwest is seen as harbinger of doom. “When people comes, wildlife disappears”, one hunter accurately observes.

Most of Koneline’s interviewees are part of the community. In most cases, their livelihoods are at stake. Tahltan’s elders have organized a blockade, but there’s dissension in the ranks and the strategy isn’t sustainable. The area is believed to be a world-class gold deposit, and mining startups are punching holes all around.

The director makes two smart decisions in approaching the subject: she finds a sturdy narrative and allows it to unfold organically, even at expense of a traditional ending (to this day, the situation remains in flux).

Also, the fact documentaries are visual constructs is never far from Nettie Wild’s mind. Eye-popping sequences like horses crossing a treacherous river populate the film and drive the message home.

It’s never in doubt on whose side the film is on. The British Columbia government and Imperial Metals don’t do themselves any favours — the former by being noncommittal and the latter with its off-putting sense of entitlement (“we paid a significant amount of money” says an executive on camera, annoyed by the blockade).

Without a decisive victory for one or the other side, it seems the conflict will go on — nature losing ground one transmission tower at the time. ❧