SFIFF 2018 - "White Ravens: A Legacy of Resistance" 

The Haida Gwaii, a chain of islands along Canada's Pacific Northwest coast, is the home of the Haida Nation--a people beginning to recover from the multigenerational trauma of forced assimilation in Canadian Indian residential schools, where thousands of children were physically and sexually abused. Their forebears were beaten in an attempt to strip them of their traditional ways, while villages became victims of logging and the people succumbed to the ravages of alcoholism and sadness. In White Ravens: A Legacy of Resistance, director Georg Koszulinski presents the land, the people, and the struggle in a palette of austere simplicity. Featured speakers tell their own stories in their own time, the larger narrative unfolding like a painting. Residential school survivors tell their stories, including one man who terms his time there as worse than prison. We also hear from younger people who are attempting to revive traditional ways.

Towustasin Stocker, a spoken-word poet, anchors White Ravens, showing up here and there to offer opinions on alcohol sales, tribal government, and what seem like extemporaneous stanzas on the attempted destruction of his people. The movie is structured on a rhythm that is something like the drumbeat of a heart. It is mixed with a somber, atonal score that makes for a surreal viewing experience, as if the documentary itself was once a horror movie and, with much effort, is now trying to become something else. The refrain lines of this moving-image poem come from Erika Stocker, who speaks of the importance of repeating one's identification: "I'm a Raven. I belong to the Yagujaanas lineage. I come from Old Masset. I come from the Grizzly Bear House."

By Jennifer Levin

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