Environmental documentary focuses on indigenous lawyer

An aboriginal lawyer who works with his people to protect their land did not expect to become part of a documentary.

Caleb Behn started on Fractured Land as a researcher, but the filmmakers soon realized that they wanted him to be the face of the documentary.

Fractured Land, a documentary about environmentalists and First Nations activists fighting the oil and gas industry, was showcased at the Calgary International Film Festival at the beginning of October.

“Damien (Gillis, one of the filmmakers) and his skill set engage in the courtroom of public opinion and that’s compelling,” Behn said. “That relationship started without (Gillis) envisioning me being the subject.”

Behn wants to have faith in sustainability, but as someone who sees the effects of climate change on a daily basis, he does not have high expectations.

“Canada, in particular, is the most energy-consumptive population per capita on the planet,” Behn said. “I’m not sure if we have that much time, as climate change occurs. A lot of people are trying to have faith, but I’m a young cynic, unfortunately.”

Gillis was sensitive about making another environmental film that focused on a person rather than statistics.

“We were really interested in exploring the idea of what was going on through the eyes of real people,” Gillis said. “Rather than talk about that in a big-picture level, with lots of stats and figures, we decided to delve into it through a human being.”

Gillis and his team focused on the dilemma that a lot of First Nations groups face – deciding whether to protect the land that they are dependent on or to create jobs that their people desperately need.

“Fracking, the process of cracking open shale formations to get gas, became a metaphor for the fractures within people like Caleb and his community,” Gillis said.

Though the project is complete, Gillis anticipates a lot of work yet to promote the film and get Fractured Land’s message heard.

“Going forward, we’re going to put a lot of effort into sharing the film with the world,” Gillis said. “There is a lot of potential and a lot of hard work left to do, now that the film is finished, to make sure that people can see it.”

Fractured Land will make its television premiere on CBC’s documentary channel on Nov. 11.

Fractured Land: Caleb Behn (left) and Damien Gillis are in Calgary for a showing of their documentary, Fractured Land, which was showcased during the Calgary International Film Festival. (Photo by Stephanie Joe/The Press)
Fractured Land: Caleb Behn (left) and Damien Gillis in Calgary for the showing of their documentary, Fractured Land, which was showcased during the Calgary International Film Festival. (Photo by Stephanie Joe/The Press)
About Stephanie Joe 5 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Stephanie Joe worked as a reporter for The Press during the 2015-16 academic year.