Zoe Hopkins, a Heiltsuk/Mohawk filmmaker born in Bella Bella, B.C., has created a drama around her nation’s fierce determination to stop tanker traffic along the coast of the Great Bear Rainforest.
Her first feature film Kayak to Klemtu premiered last week in Toronto at the imagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival and was the recipient of Air Canada’s Audience Choice Award.
Kayak to Klemtu chronicles the fear of fuel spills among those living on the coast and features Ta’Kaiya Blaney as Ella and Dr. Evan Adams (also Chief Medical Officer of the First Nations Health Authority) as Dave Ellis.
When Dave Ellis (EAdams), a prominent Kitasoo/Xai’Xais activist, passes away, his 14-year-old niece Ella (Blaney) makes it her mission to take his ashes home to Klemtu and stand in his place at a community gathering against a proposed pipeline that would bring oil tankers through their beloved homeland waters.
Strengthened by her determination and her youthful spirit, Ella embarks on the kayak journey she planned to take with her Uncle Dave through the Inside Passage along the beautiful shores of the Great Bear Rainforest. Along for the journey are her aunt, cousin, and her cranky uncle Don (Lorne Cardinal). It’s a race against the clock, as the four paddle to make the community gathering in time for Ella to give the speech of her life.
It was ironically timed. Days after the principal photography was completed, the Nathan E. Stewart ran aground hear Hopkins hometown of Bella Bella, and spilt over 100,000 litres of diesel and heavy fuel into the clam beds, bringing that fear into sharp reality for the Heiltsuk people.
She would then return to make Impossible to Contain, a 360° documentary short which chronicles the final days of a month-long effort to recover the sunken tug. Hopkins’s own family is shown at a meal of seafood gathered before the spill. “This is where food security comes from the sanctity of the land and the sea,” the filmmaker somberly narrates, her people’s sanctity ruined.
Hopkins started her working in film at the age of 15 as an actor in the iconic film Black Robe (1991). Afterwards she went to Ryerson University to get a BAA in Film in 1997. She then worked as an independent filmmaker directing her first short film Prayer for a Good Day (2004) starring; Christina Bomberry, Taysha Fuller and Delmor Jacobs, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
Hopkins is also a part of the Embargo Collective, which is a group of seven film makers from around the world who are indigenous peoples that collaborate and challenge each other to create new unusual films.
Her first 90 minute feature film has been called “a delightful family adventure that speaks to our heart and minds about the importance of protecting our lands for the generations to come.”
You can check out her work on www.imaginenative.org