Metis filmmaker explores ‘A Life on the Line’

In the new documentary, A Life on the Line, Metis filmmaker Sam Karney explores the importance of trapping.

For Indigenous people the act of trapping animals has been part of daily life for centuries.

The practice has been passed down from generation to generation, but in recent years fewer young people have been carrying on with the tradition.

In the new documentary, A Life on the Line, Metis filmmaker Sam Karney explores the importance of trapping and his own role in maintaining the tradition.

The concept started five years ago when Karney produced several mini-documentaries for Global News Winnipeg on his father’s trapping business. A couple of years later Karney co-founded Winnipeg-based production company Ice River Films. Here he began to workshop the idea of producing a full-length documentary on his father’s business but this time he would be in front of the camera.

“It’s a huge, huge part of Canadian history, and there’s no denying trapping is one of the reasons why Canada exists. It’s one of the reasons why the Metis people exist,” Karney told APTN News on Monday.

“I felt it was important for people to have an understanding that people still do this. It’s not a thing that disappeared with industrialization.”

In the documentary Karney returns to his home community of Roblin, MB, approximately 400 km southwest of Winnipeg, to spend a season on the trap line with his father.

His father, Chuck Karney, began trapping nearly three decades ago when Karney was just a young boy. His father took over a trap line in Duck Mountain Provincial Forest from a family friend.

As a teen Karney had little interest in learning the family business. He moved to Winnipeg when he was 17 to pursue a career in broadcast.

“My dad’s been doing it 25-26 years so it was always kind of around but I never really took an active role in it,” said Karney. “He would drag me out from time to time and I would just watch. I thought this is stupid I just wanted to go home so I didn’t really appreciate it.”

Over the course of the documentary Karney learns first hand how much work goes into trapping while at the same time learning more about his Metis background.

“A lot of what I’m doing out here in the trap line, even though I’m being taught by my European father, is what my Metis ancestors would have done.”

He’s Ukrainian on his father’s side and Metis on his mother’s.

He said filming the documentary gave him a new sense of appreciation for what his father does and vice versa.

“We’ve always had a really good relationship. If we didn’t we wouldn’t have made this film. We have a really good rapport between us. What we both kind of got was more of a mutual respect for what each of us does.”

A Life on the Line is co-produced by Winnipeg-based production companies Ice River Films and Wookey Films.

The documentary has been produced with support from APTN and will air on APTN on Jan. 16 and 19.

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