RSVP for the Documentary Short Film Festival – Thursday May 26, 2016. Carlton Cinemas, downtown Toronto. 9pm
Playing at the festival:
SHADOW OF A GIANT, 29min, Canada, Documentary
Directed by Clark Ferguson
Produced by Lesley Johnson
Distributed by VTape http://www.vtape.org/
Shadow of a Giant tells the story of one Canada’s largest environmental disasters, Yellowknife’s Giant Mine. Buried in collapsing chambers within the city of Yellowknife, and beside the 9th largest lake in the world, sits 237,000 tons of the highly toxic contaminant, arsenic trioxide, a byproduct of the defunct gold mine. The city of Yellowknife and the surrounding aboriginal communities depend on a remediation plan that will refrigerate the arsenic into place, until a permanent solution can be found. Shadow of a Giant tells the story of Giant through the people who live on top of it and call it home. From the remediation (clean up) team who work to stabilize the arsenic; to the people who live and work in Yellowknife; to those who worked at the mine; to the proponents of the extraction industry in the north; to the Yellowknives Dene First Nation that live within hundreds of metres of the contaminated site. Their voices tell the story of Giant’s history, and re-imagine what the mine site could be in the future.
Read News Clips:
“Interactive webdoc rethinks past, future of Giant Mine” Northern Journal: Read Story
“Planet in Focus 2015” Alternatives Journal: Read Story
“Shadow of a Giant webboc goes live” Edge: Read Story
“Shadow of a Giant” Intercontinental Cry: Read Story
My interest in Giant Mine began in 2011 with an invitation to present a film at the Yellowknife International Film Festival. Yellowknife, it must be noted, was a city built to service both Giant Mine and Con mine, two enormous gold mines built in the 1930s on the Yellowknife Bay – traditional territory of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation. The mines had been so much a part of the city of Yellowknife’s culture and history that they were and still are actually both in the Yellowknife city limits. In fact, it could be argued that the city of Yellowknife was born out of these two mines. At the time of my arrival, the remediation plan for Giant Mine was to freeze 237,000 tons of arsenic trioxide underground, forever – a plan that none of the cultural groups on the Yellowknife Bay were interested in. Giant Mine was already infamous for the bitter labour issues of the 1990s and for the murder of 9 miners who were killed by a bomb placed in one of Giant’s many tunnels. The labour issue and subsequent murders made Giant Mine an extremely sensitive subject for those in the community and many had been unwilling to on the subject due to this bitterness. So much so, that people were reluctant to talk about the mine altogether and this bitterness traveled down family lines a generation later. The dispute was fodder for made for TV movies and has been well covered in the Canadian media for the past twenty years. However, this particular history, I felt, was soon to be usurped by its environmental legacy. In fact, I realized that the labour dispute created a fatigue within Canadian media and within the community itself. The emotional dispute suppressed a much larger issue: One of the most contaminated sites in the world and an environmental disaster waiting to happen.
In 2012, working with Western Arctic Motion Pictures and producer Lesley Johnson, I was invited as the artist in residence through a Canada Council of the arts project. The purpose of the residency was to develop a community based interactive web project focusing on the social impacts of contaminated sites around northern communities – focusing specifically on Giant Mine. When I arrived, the remediation project was focused on community engagement and was presenting how they were going to stabilize the mine site. The remediation project was undergoing an environmental review and all the stakeholders in the area were present outlining concerns going forward with the project. Our team spent three months developing, writing, and interviewing community members for the project and I returned two times thereafter for further development and interviews. After spending months developing the interactive website with Paige Saunders of SOS New Media, working with animators in creating the community member’s ‘re-imagined ideas’ for Giant Mine, and editing together the story as a series of short films, Shadow of a Giant was ready for release. Shadow of a Giant, the short doc, is ready for festival release summer 2015.