The official motto of British Columbia is, splendorsine occasu — splendour without limit.
However, Richard Boyce says he has seen the limit of that splendour, and it’s not a pretty sight. The Errington filmmaker displays his disturbing vision in his latest work, Rainforest, The Limit of Splendour. His message: if nothing changes in the forest practices used on Vancouver Island, there won’t be any respectable stands of old growth left in as few as 15 years.
The film, an Island Bound Media project in association with Eyesteel Films, starts off with a slow pan across the moss-draped canopy in B.C.’s deep old growth forest. Far below, Adam Dick, otherwise known as Kwaxsistalla, from hereditary chief of the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation, speaks.
“This is what our ancestors sang to the forest,” he says as the camera smoothly glides through the trees.
“They sang about respect, including respect for the forest floor. That is the reason it is considered supernatural, the forest floor.”
Dick recounts how, long ago, his grandfather got angry with him when he broke a branch on a huckleberry bush.
‘“Don’t do that,’ he said,” Dick remembers. “‘They all have life, just like us. Just be gentle when you push them aside.’”
Kwaxsistalla then shows how his people have cut trees in the forest for centuries, with one or two planks cut off the side of the living tree and allowing it to go on to slowly heal.
That ancient respect for the forest contrasts sharply in the film, and soon. As the camera pans through the treetops, the buzzing whine of a chainsaw slowly increases in volume.
Boyce, a longtime rainforest activist, then details the very different attitude towards the forest by the companies that log it.
The unflinching eye of Boyce’s camera shows the woody debris left to choke hillsides at Vancouver Island logging shows, where trees are seen as standing sources of fibre and not much else.
He shows raw logs being loaded onto a barge for unprocessed shipment overseas.
Boyce takes a float plane to the ancient site of a Kwakwaka’wakw territory, in the Klashkish valley, deep in the wilderness of northern Vancouver Island. Here, he says, in this unspoiled wilderness, his people had once lived in harmony for thousands of years.
Even here, as Boyce’s camera shows, is clear cut logging.
This, Boyce says, is the limit of B.C. splendour.
It’s a message that clearly resonates. Rainforest was recently shown at the Vancouver International Film Festival, where Boyce said it received a strongly supportive reception.
“People stayed around to talk after the film and the theatre manager came down later and said it looked like we were going to have a revolution in there,” Boyce said.
Rainforest, The Limit of Splendour was also chosen for the honour of being shown at the upcoming Montreal Film Festival.
Local residents who would like to experience Boyce’s vision don’t have to fly to La Belle Provence. The film will be showing twice on Sunday, November 27 at the Errington War Memorial Hall, with a matinee at 3 p.m. and another at 7:30 p.m.
The event will feature Chief Adam Dick and a potluck dinner, starting at 5 p.m. Admission is $10 at the door.