Arts Review, Movies

Koneline: our land beautiful

Koneline: our land beautiful featured image

Koneline: our land beautiful
Nettie Wild, director of this feature documentary

There’s a scene in Nettie Wild’s remarkable documentary Koneline: our land beautiful that sums up the emotional tone of the film. Wild is following a woman, who is moving her pack of horses from one grazing land to another. It’s a tough task, across difficult terrain, but she’s clearly up for it. People have asked her, she says, what kind of survival gear she carries with her on journeys that seem to many of us southerners as being quite dangerous. Not to the woman Wild is filming. “I don’t survive out here,” she says. “I live out here.”

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That’s the sentiment, which all of the people in Koneline espouse, whether they speak it or not. Wild has crafted a film that is so stunningly beautiful that it might appear that all of her artistry and energy has been put into shooting lyrical scenes in one of the most gorgeous landscapes in Canada, the forests, mountains, rivers and lakes of northern British Columbia. And, indeed, kudos must go to Wild and her cinematographer Van Royko, whose previous documentary feature, Sturla Gunnarsson’s Monsoon, was also a ravishing visual spectacle.

But Koneline is far more than a feast for the eyes. In the hands of Wild, an expert storyteller, it is the people who live up north who truly should be celebrated. They are the ones, who can handle the hardships that the land can dish out along with its bounteous treasures. In a style that seems to be meandering but is actually cleverly crafted, she follows many interesting people—we would call them characters–in the beautiful land: owners of a diner; traditional and very modern hunters; line workers; ranchers; people working for a local mine and those opposed to it. Each of these Northerners lives life large in a territory that has its own rough magic.

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The area where Wild spent most of the past five years shooting is Tahltan land. She knows their ways, which are contradictory and like everyone else in the film, doesn’t follow an obvious pattern. Elders are opposed to copper and gold mines that are destroying part of the land but younger men work there because they need the money. You can’t eat visual splendour. So while there is a blockade at one point and other protests taking place, Wild doesn’t immediate shift her focus towards those fighting the mine companies. Both perspectives are honoured by interviews and passages depicting their work. For Wild, who made her high critical reputation as a point-of-view radical documentarian, Koneline shows something new, a mature even-handed vision of the world and how people live in it.

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Koneline
is a wise, humanistic documentary. It’s a tone poem to a beautiful land and the amazing characters who live in it. Koneline deservedly won the Best Canadian Feature Award at Hot Docs. I urge you to see this film.

Written by Marc Glassman
Adjunct Professor, Ryerson University
Director, Pages UnBound: the festival and series
Editor, POV Magazine
Editor, Montage Magazine
Film Critic, The New Classical FM
Film programmer, Planet in Focus

Tune in to hear Marc Glassman’s Art Reviews
Friday’s at 9:07am on Good Day GTA.

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