A film that a small First Nation in British Columbia has made to highlight the stewardship work undertaken by the community is in the running for a prestigious award.
Keepers of the Land is a 29-minute short produced by the Kitasoo Xai’xais Nation located in Klemtu on Swindle Island on the coast of B.C.
The film was made in conjunction with Moonfish Media Inc. and is one of four finalists in the Global Voices category of the Jackson Wild Media Awards. They’re like the Oscars for nature films. Winners will be announced on Sept. 28 at a ceremony at the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
“We are super excited that our film has been chosen as one of the top films in the Jackson Wild Film Festival,” said Douglas Neasloss, chief councillor of the Kitasoo Xai’xais Nation. He also co-directed the film.
Keepers of the Land was one of 1,100 films under consideration for this year’s awards and one of four Canadian films named as finalists in the category.
Deirdre Leowinata of Moonfish Media Inc., who co-directed the film, is feeling overwhelmed by film’s selection.
“We thought we’d try it,” Leowinata said of sending in the award application. “I was shocked. It’s the first festival circuit for any project I’ve done. I was pretty excited because the film is coming from such a small place.”
Keepers of the Land is up against some pretty stiff competition in the category. One of the other Global Voices finalists is The Elephant Whisperers, which won an actual Oscar for best documentary (short subject) at this year’s ceremony this past March.
The Elephant Whisperers is about a couple in India that devote their lives to caring for an orphaned elephant.
Leowinata said it’s a little intimidating to be competing against such an acclaimed film.
“I’m not going in with expectations to win. But you never know. I’m just super happy to be included.”
Neasloss is hoping those that view Keepers of the Land will be moved by the film.
“I hope when people see this film that they get inspired,” he said. “Our little First Nations community of 350 people are driving science, incorporating traditional knowledge, working with different levels of government and stakeholders and asserting our stewardship responsibilities.”
The Kitasoo Xai’xais Nation is located in the Great Bear Rainforest about 500 kilometres north of Vancouver. The nation has had a significant role in developing provincial conservation policy during the past decade.
Last year the nation declared its own marine protected area and also worked with provincial officials to ban black bear hunting.
“We are Indigenizing old policies and management and are shaping a better future for the next generations,” Neasloss said. “We are grooming our young people so when it is their time to step into the leadership position, they will be ready.”
Neasloss felt it was vital for others to see what is happening in his First Nation.
“This film was important for a few reasons,” he added. “We wanted a film that highlights our chiefs, Elders talking about our stewardship responsibility. We wanted a film that highlights the marine world. We also wanted a film that highlights all the stewardship work we do in our community.”
Plus, there’s an important core message to share as well.
“We live by statements by our chiefs, Elders. ‘If you take care of the land, the land will take care of you’,” Neasloss said. “We incorporate that statement in all of our work.”
Leowinata is pleased her company was able to help get that message out.
“The world of wildlife film has been largely inaccessible to historically marginalized communities… It’s great to see our little film among the likes of BBC, PBS, National Geographic, and the other natural history giants of the world. I want to show the world that we can be here too.”
By Sam Laskaris, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com