There have been a whole host of films released in recent months that take aim at the proposed Enbridge pipeline, which would send Alberta tar sands to Kitamat and through rocky channels of water that border the Great Bear Rainforest.
It's a perfect topic for a documentary: there's drama, conflict and gorgeous scenery of Northern B.C. that never gets boring, no matter how many times you see it.
But for Anthony Bonello, it all began with a dog-eared magazine in a cabin in the interior. The Whistler filmmaker was on a Solomon shoot when he came across a publication featuring Norm Hann, a professional paddleboarder, on the cover.
Hann had made a film about his 2010 expedition through the proposed tanker route to raise awareness about Enbridge's plan. "It was a really good film, but I saw that and I thought, 'Wow, we could do something cool that reaches a lot more people," he says. "I just called Norm out of the blue, and had coffee and hatched a plan."
The project began to grow from there. Norm was involved in a paddleboard initiative in Bella Bella where high school kids were creating their own wooden paddleboards with help from a wood working teacher there. Bonello saw an opportunity for another narrative thread. "When I got in touch with Chris (Williamson, the teacher) that's when the project became something more than a white dude paddling to raise awareness," he says. "At that point I didn't know Norm and the full extent of his connection (to the area). It was, to me, unique and powerful."
Partnering with Sunshine Coast photographer Nicolas Teichrob, the group decided to film Hann paddling the full tanker route while chronicling the teens creating their own boards and contemplating the importance of having a viable shoreline for the future.
"We shot the kids before we shot anything else," Bonello says. "In the winter they were building their boards while they were still in school. I was up there last March every couple of weeks during the different stages. It took a lot to earn their trust and unlock them."
One way he did that was by participating in a 48-hour hunger strike alongside many of them to show their opposition to the proposed pipeline and tanker route. It was startling to watch them open up, he adds. Three days before Enbridge's Joint Review Panel hearings in Bella Bella "you could barely squeeze a word out of them then they were undergoing a 48-hour hunger strike and speaking so eloquently about things kids shouldn't have to concern themselves with," he says. "It blew me away. It strengthened (my) resolve to do the film and include them in it."