Koneline documentary aims to challenge stereotypes

Wild Productions' recent documentary challenges stereotypes about who in northwest B.C. supports and opposes development.

Workers steer a power line transmission tower

Workers steer a power line transmission tower

For many people, B.C. Hydro’s $716 million Northwest Transmission Line was just the ticket needed to provide work and boost the local economy in the early part of this decade.

Beginning at the BC Hydro Skeena Substation just south of Terrace, the transmission line now runs 344 kilometres north, providing the power for one mine so far, the Red Chris copper and gold mine. It also feeds power from three run of the river projects into the provincial grid.

But the line also cuts through traditional First Nations territory, drawing worries and criticism from members among those First Nations who also benefited first from the line’s construction and now from the industries it services.

It’s that kind of contradiction which makes the Northwest Transmission Line one of the central features of Canadian documentary filmmaker Nettie Wild’s latest production known as Koneline (Tahltan for “our land beautiful”).

Released earlier this year and coming to various locations in the northwest now, Koneline has already won several awards.

Known for documentaries which bring a strong message, Nettie Wild has been in the northwest before.

She produced Blockade in 1993, the story of Gitxsan protests surrounding land claims in the Hazeltons, and this time Wild says she wants people’s stereotypes of who is against development and who is in favour to be challenged simply by the images in Koneline.

“I wanted to chisel through the rhetoric that’s happening around development,” says Wild.

Using the latest film-making technology, Wild’s chisel is her camera, which takes in the wilderness as well as human events such as a Tahltan stick game, skinning a moose, workers struggling to place a massive power line tower as it dangles  from a helicopter, and a Tahltan blockade of the then-under construction Red Chris mine. That latter sequence includes an appearance at the blockade by provincial energy minister Bill Bennett.

There’s very little talking in Koneline and Wild calls it a form of “visual poetry.”

“The number one response so far is ‘thank you for telling us what not to think’,” says Wild of the reaction at Koneline’s showings.

Wild credits the willingness of First Nations people and of people working within industry to give her access to their lives in shaping Koneline as a documentary portraying the many issues surrounding development.

“My goal was how to take people past their assumptions,” said Wild.

“How can I surprise you and move you?”

Koneline is 96 minutes in length and shows in Terrace on Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. at the Tillicum Twin Theatre. Co-presenters are Friends of Wild Salmon and the Skeena-Nass Centre for Innovation in Resource Economics. In Hazelton at Gitanmaax Tri Town Theatre, Nov. 15 at 7 p.m.

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