A slow-burning documentary by Nettie Wild, Koneline: Our Land Beautiful depicts the simmering tensions in northern British Columbia between a population in a symbiotic relationship with nature and the disruptive force of mining companies.
While the impending conflict is a great motivator, Nettie Wild takes her time to show how mine construction upsets every activity in Tahltan territory. Even something supposedly benign as the power grid reaching further up the northwest is seen as harbinger of doom. “When people comes, wildlife disappears”, assess a hunting impresario accurately.
Most of Koneline’s interviewees are part of the community. In most cases, their livelihoods are at stake. Tahltan’s elders have organized a blockage, but there is dissension in the ranks and the strategy is not sustainable in time. The area is believed a world class gold deposit and mining startups are already punching holes all around.
The director makes two smart decisions in approaching the subject: Finds a sturdy narrative and allows it to unfold organically, even at expense of a traditional ending (to this day, the situation remains in flux). Also, the fact documentaries are visual constructs is never far from Nettie Wild’s mind. Eye-popping sequences like horses crossing a treacherous river populate the film and drive the message home.
It’s never in doubt on whose side the film is on. The government of British Columbia and Imperial Metals don’t do themselves any favors, the former by being noncommittal and the latter by showing an off-putting sense of entitlement (“we paid a significant amount of money” says an executive on camera, annoyed by the blockage). Without a decisive victory for one or the other side, it seems the conflict will go on, nature losing ground one transmission tower at the time. 3.5/5 planets.
Koneline: Our Land Beautiful opens this Friday 6th at the Roxy Theatre. On Wednesday the 12th, Nettie Wild will be doing a Q&A via Skype following the 7 pm screening.