• Returning Home examines the legacy of residential schools in Canada as well as the decimation of wild Pacific salmon.

Canadian Geographic Films is thrilled to announce its first feature documentary film, Returning Home, will make its international debut at several Canadian film festivals this fall. 

Directed by Secwépemc filmmaker Sean Stiller, the film follows Orange Shirt Day founder Phyllis Jack-Webstad on a cathartic cross-Canada educational tour as her own family struggles to heal from multigenerational trauma. In the midst of a global pandemic and the lowest salmon run in Canadian history, Returning Home explores how a multi-year federal fishing moratorium is tearing at the very fabric of Secwépemc communities and traditions.

By observing the trauma experienced by Phyllis and her family, Returning Home holds a mirror to the trauma experienced by the natural world, too. For the Secwépemc, healing people and healing the natural world are one and the same.

Leading up to Canada’s first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, Returning Home will have its world theatrical premiere at the Calgary International Film Festival on Sept. 29. It will also premiere at the Edmonton and Vancouver International Film Festivals that same week and be available online for pass holders of the Lunenburg Doc Fest beginning Sept. 26. 

Watch the trailer for Returning Home

Marie Wilson, who served as one of three commissioners of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada from 2009 to 2015, calls the film “stunning” and “heartfelt” in its recounting of the personal experiences of one of thousands of residential school survivors who came forward with their stories. 

“In giving voice to the salmon in parallel to Phyllis Webstad’s story, this beautiful and compelling film captures the heart of this intertwined relationship between humans and Mother Earth,” she says. “For all those now seeking pathways to reconciliation, it underscores our collective, human responsibility toward the lands, waters and ice that have shaped, defined and sustained distinct Indigenous peoples in the many homelands throughout Canada.” 

The film has already garnered award nominations, including for the DGC Best Canadian Documentary Award at CIFF and the Feature Documentary Award at Lunenburg Doc Fest. 

The filming of Returning Home was made possible in part by the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Government of Canada. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the festival websites linked above and be sure to follow Canadian Geographic on Twitter.