This beautiful work of art is a loving film experience that captures the old life of the Haida people who live on what used to be called the Queen Charlotte Islands. The exquisite photography is reason enough to see this important story of an ancient culture. Only 50 native speakers are still living, and they are all over 70 years of age. Their culture centers around how they sustain themselves in the island environment. This film manifests as a visual prayer of gratitude, wonder and testimony to a people in glorious communion with nature.
For years the Haidas have lived off the clams, salmon and chiton. They have used the tree bark, natural plants and berries for generations. One lovely Haida woman harvests the ancient Haida “spices.” She pulls up a wild strawberry plant and explains that the roots are sweet and good for any dish. She also explains how to prepare rose petals, cutting off the bitter tips and adding them to potatoes or rice.
The most reverent sequence is in the harvesting and smoking of the salmon. From detangling the beautiful silver-backed slippery fish from the net to closing you inside the smoke room, the camera is there watching the dripping orange-red meat and the swirling smoke.
The Haida people are an inexplicably old tribe, with archeological evidence dating back 13,000 years. Back in the Gold Rush days of the 1850s, their population was estimated at 10,000. Now, it is closer to 5,000. The remaining Haida identity is intertwined with their spiritual and temporal connection to their natural surroundings, but their days and ways are in threat of extinction.
At the beginning of this cinematic revelation, the history of the Haida origin is recounted in the ancient Haida language. It all has to do with the animals of the islands allowing the people from the sea to settle.
As the title of the film suggests, the modern problem for the Haida is the survival of their culture. The accompanying music, composed by Michael Behairie, ebbs and flows in gentle unison with the spiritual tone of this gentle report on the Haida people. “Survival Prayer” will be shown Wednesday, July 17, as part of The Northwest Film Center’s ongoing Northwest Tracking program.
Director/Producer/Dir. of Photography: Benjamin Greené
Editor: P. Corwin Lamm
Music: Michael Beharie
Sound: Christina Wienhold
Graphics: Kyle Marmesh
Runtime: 70 minutes
Awards: Winner Doc feature Jury Prize at 2013 Sarasota Film Fest.
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