Haida Gwaii: On the Edge of the World


By: Addison Wylie

Pause Charles Wilkinson’s latest documentary Haida Gwaii: On the Edge of the World at any given moment, and you’ll more than likely land on a stunning image.  The cinematography displaying the tucked away world of Haida Gwaii, British Columbia is almost too perfect, but that’s just how naturally beautiful it is.

At first, it appears Wilkinson doesn’t have preferred motives in his filmmaking other than to shine a light on a lesser-known Indigenous community where every detail is appreciated.  The audience accepts, however, because of how the locals discuss their lifestyles with admirable and practical love for life.

Since manufactured resources are sparse, inhabitants make due with the nature around them.  They have a collective passion to keep their land and water healthy in order to obtain the best results.  The way of life isn’t conveyed to the audience as a hippie’s daydream – it’s all quite reasonable actually.  This approach to life in Haida Gwaii also allows landscapes to flourish with bright colours and bushy forestry in the clean environment.  If Haida Gwaii’s tourism wasn’t booming before, this film will push it over the edge.

The documentary soon brings in conflicts that arise in Haida Gwaii, giving the film the proper push it needs.  The logging industry is shown as a main offender as machinery mows down thousands of trees.  A lengthly pan that almost covers 360° showing bundles upon bundles of tree trunks is an unsettling look at reality.

If Haida Gwaii: On the Edge of the World proves anything other than how gorgeous the world can be, is that life-affirming self-preservation can be achieved through simple pleasures along with teamwork, patience, and passion.  The scenes of people standing their ground while Wilkinson stands back and frames the unwavering power before him are the moments when this film becomes more than a postcard.  It’s a film that shows us how every element has a purpose.  No wonder Haida Gwaii: On the Edge of the World won the Best Canadian Feature Documentary Award at this year’s Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival – I can’t see it disappointing anyone.


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