A film about a B.C. indigenous leader torn between two worlds as his people grapple with the impact of hydraulic fracturing on their territory will premiere at the Hot Docs Film Festival in Toronto Tuesday night.
Fractured Land follows Caleb Behn, a young Dene lawyer, as he navigates the conflicts on his physical terrain — where fracking is taking its toll on his land and water in northeastern B.C. — and the conflicts within himself as he struggles to reconcile his traditions with the modern world.
Filmmakers Fiona Rayher and Damien Gillis followed Behn for four years, capturing hundreds of hours of footage of him on his territory, at law school in Vancouver and even consulting with New Zealand’s Maori people, who are also under siege by the fracking industry.
Fractured Land is less an environmental film and more an intense personal tale of Behn’s struggle to come to grips with complex issues such as fracking, resource politics and Canada’s colonial legacy.
The tension is illustrated most clearly by the contrast of Behn’s parents — his mother is a high-ranking oil and gas officer trying to make change from the inside and his father is a residential school survivor and staunch environmentalist.
Behn has blended those two influences to become a young man who sports a Mohawk and tattoos beneath his business suit. In the film, he sits down with Janet Annesley, the former vice president of communications for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. It’s a scene that makes you wriggle in your seat, but it results in one of the film’s more poignant moments when Annesley drops this line: “I think to some degree we are all fractured within ourselves.”
With B.C.’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) export dreams, those fractures are only set to grow for Behn. The gas intended for export would be derived through fracking on his land, which involves drilling deep underground and then fracturing the rock via a blast of high-pressure water, sand and chemicals. The emissions from fracking and LNG plants threaten to triple B.C.’s carbon footprint — rivalling the Alberta oilsands — but the industry also provides jobs for Behn's people.
The documentary avoids becoming another enviro film about emissions statistics or scary fracking tales and charts a different, more universal storyline about, as Behn puts it, “how to best use our heartbeats.”
Hot Docs Screenings
– Tuesday, April 28 at 9 p.m., Tiff Bell Lightbox
– Thursday, April 30 at 2:30 p.m., Scotiabank Theatre
– Saturday, May 2 at 4 p.m., Scotiabank Theatre
The film will have its broadcast premiere on CBC’s Documentary channel later this year.