by Chelsea Thornton (Staff Writer)
This past weekend, October 1st through 3rd, was the second annual Mission International Community Film Festival. The weekend kicked off with “In Praise of Wild Salmon,” a night of speakers and documentaries dedicated to the preservation of wild salmon stocks and habitats. For all the speakers, including Grand Chief Clarence Pennier, biologist Alexandra Morton, Greenpeace co-founder Rex Weyler, Chief Marilyn Baptiste, filmmaker Damien Gillis and others, the night was clearly about more than fish – it was about all that the fish represented to each of them: they are the salmon people to the Sto:Lo, an ecological keystone to Morton from the Broughton archipelago, and a global rallying call. Although salmon was the focus of the evening, the focus of the film festival overall shone through in each speech: the power of communities, working together, to initiate change.
Although not all Friday night’s speakers were involved directly with salmon conservation, they were all linked to the evening through their connection to water, the home of the salmon. Two campaigns were mentioned again and again throughout the evening – The Paddle for Wild Salmon, a paddle down the Fraser River from Hope to Vancouver to raise public awareness about wild salmon, and No Tanks, a series of rallies and meetings aimed at getting oil tankers out of Vancouver Harbour. Regardless of the cause the speakers held most dear, their message was the same. Again and again, they urged the audience to get involved, to force the government into responsible environmental and social action. Morton said, “This is about politics now. What we need is to get a government that is working for us – who act as paid administrators of our vision.” And her call was echoed over and over again. As Chief Marilyn Baptiste put it: “Of course, we all have to stand up together to protect the wild salmon, to protect the water, to protect our people.”
In between the showings of the night’s two main features, Alexandra’s Echo and Farmed Salmon Exposed, the intermission allowed everyone a chance to stretch their legs, and, more importantly, their hand-shaking arm. The intermission, as well as the time after the night’s films and speeches, was an opportunity for guest and speakers alike to get out of their seats and start talking – about the films and speeches, but also about the largely activist crowd’s rainbow of causes and campaigns. I got a chance to speak to Rex Weyler, seizing on his No Tanks t-shirt to bring up the topic of pipelines and tankers in Northern B.C; throughout the foyer, similar conversations were going on. Later in the weekend, Weyler explained what was going on in the room that first night, and throughout the rest of the weekend: “Big things can happen during a weekend like this – we start talking to each other, communicating, sharing ideas, and big things happen.”
For more about the Mission International Community Film Festival, visit http://missionfilmfestival.ca/