Haida Modern, a feature-length Robert Davidson documentary, will be broadcast by Knowledge Network on June 2 – and streamed free of charge on the network website, www.knowledge.ca.
The internationally-renowned sculptor and painter – who lives on the Semiahmoo First Nation reserve and has his studio there – says the film’s underlying theme, the importance of revisiting the environmental wisdom of ancient culture, is more timely than ever.
“Nature has pushed the pause button, time out from this crazy path we’re on,” Davidson said in a media release highlighting the broadcast date. “Coronavirus is telling us we’re in it all together…a reminder that all is safe. We’re in a state of ‘iihldaa (transformation). We all have what it takes to weather this change.”
The documentary, directed by Vancouver filmmaker Charles Wilkinson, won the most popular Canadian documentary award at the Vancouver International Film Festival last fall, also claiming best Canadian feature honours at last year’s Available Light Film Festival in the Yukon.
Davidson is famous for carving his first totem pole – the first raised in Haida Gwaii in 100 years – in 1969; an act widely credited with sparking the revival of coastal Indigenous culture and paving the way for many other artists.
Haida Modern follows the latter-day life of the artist who, in pre-virus times, divided his time between the Semiahmoo Peninsula and Haida Gwaii – showing a man with a foot in both the modern art world and the 14,000-year-old Haida culture of his ancestors and its inherent respect for nature.
In interviews with everyone from family members and art historians to rock stars and politicians, the film shows that while Davidson’s art work has resonance in galleries across North America from Vancouver to New York, his environmental activism is just as resonant, crossing all boundaries of culture and age.
Interviewed by Peace Arch News at the time of the film’s premiere at the Vancouver International Film Festival, Davidson noted the irony that it was only when he came to Vancouver, as a young man, to study art that he began to appreciate the richness of his own cultural heritage, which had been muted by the bitterness of many decades of political suppression.
But he said he is convinced the way ahead depends on human unity and respectful co-operation of cultures to find a better way of managing the planet.
In this, he said, he has been heartened by the international climate activism of Greta Thunberg and many others of her generation.
“It’s young people like Greta who give us hope for the future,” he said.