Cowichan filmmaker explores the life-giving cedar tree in new film

The documentary weaved together stories and insights from West Coast First Nations

Filmmaker Harold Joe from Cowichan First Nation is aiming to inspire the next generation to preserve cultural knowledge. 

His documentary A Cedar is Life weaves together stories of elders, carvers, medicine makers and basket weavers from Vancouver Island to Haida Gwaii in B.C. 

“When you listen to these older people and these artists, there is a real connection; we have that connection to this tree, this being. I don’t like calling it a tree; I like calling it a being; it was a giver,” says Joe.

As the name suggests, his film showcases the cedar tree, which is central to the cultural life of West Coast First Nations.

The film speaks with knowledge keepers who explore how all parts of the tree are valuable and the importance of protecting this ancient ancestor. 

The film follows Joe as he discovers more about this sacred plant, and reflects on his time working in forestry in the ‘80s and ‘90s.

For the documentary, Joe reached out to elders and artists, discussing the importance of old growth forests. 

He says that people need to capture their community knowledge as it is being lost. 

“Reach out to your people, your community, your elders. Here in Cowichan, we are losing a lot. My importance as an individual is to try to document and preserve it as quickly as I can, as fast as I can,” says Joe. 

Leslie Bland, the movie’s producer, has been a friend of Joe’s for more than a decade. The two have worked together on Indigenous-centred stories such as Tzouhalem and Dust N Bones.

Bland says the success in stories is being able to build trust with communities. 

“If I share something with you, it will be handled with respect … and secondly, they look at the film and say yeah that’s pretty good, it’s of good quality and I think that’s part of it.” 

Contribute Button