About a week ago, we were surprised by the news that After the Last River has been nominated for a Canadian Screen Award, for the Donald Britton Award for Best Social/Political Documentary. It is no exaggeration to say we are over the moon!
It is a known cliché to say that it is simply an honour to be nominated, but in this case it could not be more true. After the Last River is recognized alongside three staggering works of documentary filmmaking. The War at Home is a stunning portrayal of the daily battle that too many women face. Gauntanamo’s Child follow’s Omar Khadr’s personal journey from Canada to Guantanamo and back again, riveting us when we played alongside it at the Kingston Canadian Film Festival. And I, Pedophile dares to discuss a dark taboo, and does so with empathy and grace. We are truly, truly honoured to be next these brave works of non-fiction.
But beyond that, there were many moments where we were not even sure we would be able to finish this film. This film was held together with shoestrings, prayers and the incredibly generosity and expertise of mentors and peers. Beginning as director Victoria Leans’ student film at York University in 2009, there was no idea that the film would ever bring us here.
We never had any budget beyond a student’s line of credit and some academic grants, and for the duration the only production company we had was one cobbled together for the express purpose of making the film. We are grateful to our Indiegogo supporters for helping us finish the film to a professional standard – a standard which is confirmed with this CSA nomination. Beyond being the first finished nominated film of either Producer Jade Blair or Director Victoria Lean, it is both of our first films ever. We are truly gobsmacked and grateful.
Making this film wouldn’t have been possible without the help of some amazing people who worked alongside us. Mentor and York University Professor Ali Kazimi was there from the beginning, advising and guiding the project over five years. Editor Terra Jean Long who brought the film to the finish line beautiful and helped it find its voice. Associate Producer Chris Wiseman worked tirelessly on so many different aspects of the project from the technical to the philosophical. Sandbox – Boite of Film, helmed by Boaz Berri and Andrea Cohen B, for support of many kinds. Brian Wynn for his invaluable legal expertise and encouragement. Kirk Holmes for travelling to Attawapiskat to shoot and for jumping on on early versions. Jeff Morrow for his beautiful score. Ryan Ongario for executing the sound mix. Ben Travers for clearing all that footage I hastily borrowed! Stef McCarrol for her archive research. There are so many other additional camerapeople, editors and shooters, including Jorge Barrerra, Shane Belcourt and Peter Sibbald who provided footage. Also thank you to Wildlands League and my father, David Lean, for first taking me to Attawapiskat in 2008 and staying with me the entire time. This film certainly took a village and we couldn’t have done it without all of you.
But the main people we need to thank are the people of Attawapiskat, who trusted Vicki to let her into their homes and share their stories. Rosie Koostachin and her daughter, Tesla, as well as their entire family, for showing us so many sides of Attawapiskat – including the beautiful traditional homelands of Attawapiskat and its ceremonies. Adrian Sutherland for sharing his awesome track, "Here I am" from his band Midnight Shine to close the film, as well as his perspectives on resource development in his backyard. Elders Raphael* and Theresa Fireman for spending the time to share their concerns and open their doors. Theresa Spence for her courage and resilience. Danny Metatawabin for his support and passion for the community of Attawapiskat. Lisa Kiokee for expressing her fears and desires with grace. These are just a few of the people who opened their lives up and shared, and this nomination is theirs as well. Finally, to all the youth of Attawpiskat – this film is dedicated to you and we will continue to work towards helping amplify your voices and demands.
To support the recently formed youth council, you can contribute to their funds here. If you would like to donate or take actions in other ways, you can see other ways to help here.
We are so grateful, and so humbled to be nominated,
Thanks for all your help and support,
Jade Blair and Victoria Lean
*This post has been updated to correct the name of Raphael Fireman.