Everyday Activist - DamNation

Posted on Thursday, August 13, 2015 at 06:00 PM

Review: DamNation

Movie Review by Everyday Activist X CalgaryMovies.com

DamNation ~ Water Water Everywhere

While hiking in Juneau, Alaska, earlier this week, one of the guides and I started talking about DamNation, since I had met the film makers at the Banff Mountain Film Festival last November as well as listened to the founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, speak about the environment. You can go to Banff this weekend, August 14th to watch DamNation under the stars in the Shaw Amphitheatre. Or if you cannot attend the public screening, you can stream this documentary on Netflix. I’m still hanging out in the Yukon where activists are campaigning to save the Peel watershed. In Alberta, the Yellowstone to Yukon Initiative has used screenings to raise awareness and petition against the Site C dam project.

The basis of the film documents the removal of a dam from the Elwah River and all the issues surrounding both the presence of the dams as well as their eventual demise. Until I watched this movie, I honestly thought of dams as cheap power generation that probably murdered some fish along way, much like ugly, windmills that dot the prairie landscapes murder bats and birds. Even when scuba diving in Lake Minnewanka in Banff, where a dam flooded a town, I hadn’t realized what kind of damage they do to ecosystems. In places such as Whitehorse, where dams interrupt the salmon run, they have programs put into place where people introduce farmed salmon into the waters to keep the numbers up. DamNation explains using animation why this is a bad idea, especially when considering genetic diversity in salmon.

Messing with nature always hurts those who try to live alongside it. First Nation communities lost a way life when the salmon run along the Elwah was interrupted. Photos within the documentary show giant salmon. Trees were cut down to build the dam and native lands, ultimately flooded. Moving onto other dams, the movie talks about how much archeological data disappeared when the Glen Canyon Dam was built. An interview with feisty, 95 year old, Katie Lee, takes us back to a time before the dam was built. The nostalgia in her eyes, along with black and white photos from a different time, makes one believe that dams destroyed more than they helped.

As far as activist movies go, this one takes the cake. These rebel film makers go out to places they aren’t supposed to be, to get the footage they need to make a great documentary worthy of the Oscar long list. They make a point to discuss to both sides of the debate, but overall clearly siding with the group wanting to free the Elwah. Some of harrowing tales that a group of activists go through to paint “Free the Elwah” on the dam add entertainment and drama. Even the park rangers, tasked with stopping the vandals were impressed with artistry and perseverance of the graffiti artist. Go to their website http://damnationfilm.com to see what has been accomplished and how the public can show support.

If you are heading to Banff to watch DamNation, Chris Burkhard’s short film, Arctic Swell, will also screen. He won the photo journalism award at the festival in November for his photos on the subject of cold water surfing. Had the individuals been from Vancouver or Vancouver Island, the film would have been much less dramatic, than knowing that they were from California, freezing as they experienced the joys of starting and digging out cars in winter. When I saw the photo exhibition, I assumed the surfers were at least familiar with northern climes. Apparently not.

CalgaryMovies.com Local Scene Event: Banff: Adventure Under the Stars >

Calgary Showtimes: DamNation >


NOTE: The showtimes listed on CalgaryMovies.com come directly from the theatres' announced schedules, which are distributed to us on a weekly basis. All showtimes are subject to change without notice or recourse to CalgaryMovies.com.