Byron Dueck’s fluid-timeless make of this film is impressive. It is as gentle as taking a quiet walk alongside the river, and as deep as an epiphany in its lucidity
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
FILMED ON TREATY 8 PROPERTY, Valley of the Southern North is a love letter to the Peace Valley and the people and creatures that make it their home. The Site C Dam, now under construction, will destroy the ancestral territory of the Dane Zaa and Cree, violate treaties, and displace residents, farmers, and wildlife living along its shores.
Byron Dueck, simply put, is a passionate environmentalist – not to be confused with an eco-warrior – who is guided by his principles of immense love and respect for the environment, and his belief that everyone should be treated with fairness. Professionally speaking, Byron Dueck is a freelance visual journalist & documentarian, and his focus is on the intersection of human rights and the environment.
In Byron Dueck’s most recent film, Valley of the Southern North, documented over the course of the Site C Dam’s contempt for humans, animals and nature, he has managed to preserve a history that most of us will never be lucky enough to see for ourselves.
Valley of the Southern North focusses on the very heart of the controversy…real people caught up in the waterfall of meaningless words on both sides – corporate greed and eco-warriors -actual livelihoods washed away like tumbling rocks beneath waterlogged sludge. It is the oft-forgotten middle of the story that Dueck “lifted up like moss from the forest floor”.
Dueck has managed to produce a film that brings attention to the very life flow of the people living beside the waters of the land that is dammed for eternity in the controversial Site C atrocity. This is not a film that focusses on fleeting newsreels regarding environmental problems, nor is it the story of dejected people living in abject poverty. Instead it takes you into the very lives of the people living at one with their land, the same land their ancestors have occupied since time immemorial.
The film’s breathtaking scenery places the viewer ever so gently into the moment, while captivating vignettes, as told by two earth mothers, pull all the attention to their plight.
Mothers reciting their stories spoke more to my soul than a tightly written script could have ever hoped to achieve. One mother, a poet and a recovering addict, has lived the traumas of her ancestors; she tells of finding peace in this peaceful valley. While another mother talks about her connection to the water that grows life to feed her family…the same water that could kill if not boiled. A land of plenty, and yet the true custodians of Canada’s waters have none that is safe to drink. Truth rests in the quiet gentle voices of the women, and in the ragged pain of losing everything they hold dear.
The filming is clean, calm and beautiful. As pristine and alive as a waterfall catching sun rays. In such a powerful story there was no need to play with styles, although there is one angle that really brought it home for me. An omniscient view as the camera pulls away leaving me with the whole canvas spreading far and wide…like a surreal, supreme piece of art. The symbiosis of land and water, the woman cradled between both natural wonders. Without one there is none.
The filmmaker uses the natural music of the land to evoke the emotions of the story…the flowing of water…the heartbeats of playful wavelets…the sound of a speedboat cutting through a quiet river.
The work of the filmmaking seems to have been erased completely, the documentarian, like a bird, as natural to the story as the people and place. It is definitely a film that has changed the way I process information about what is really happening to our natural environment. The felled trees and dammed rivers happening far away from us, urbanites, will soon annihilate us all.
Overall, the fluid-timeless make of this film,Valley of the Southern North, by Byron Dueck, is impressive. It is as gentle as taking a quiet walk alongside the river, and as deep as an epiphany in its lucidity.
Stay tuned for an upcoming interview with Byron Dueck…
“I have been following the Site C saga for several years, and on my last photography trip to the Peace Valley I was shocked at how much destruction had been done to the area since 2018. From Hudson’s Hope down to the dam site, entire islands have been razed, huge sections of old growth forests have been logged, entire river channels blocked & diverted, and homes lost.” – Byron Dueck, Valley of the Southern North
Preview the film: Valley of the Southern North
Visit: byrondueck.com to learn more about his work in both filmmaking and photography.
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