Mount Edziza (ED-z-eye-ZA) sits in the heart of the Tahltan First Nation, about a 19-hour drive north of Vancouver, British Columbia. Shaped by volcanic activity, the landscape is dotted with scree the colours of a well-stocked shelf of Indian spices, making it look more like Mars than Canada. But for married documentary filmmakers Mike and Chantal Schauch it’s a beautiful, rare and fragile place.
“I’ve been to the remote Himalayas, but there it’s all been impacted by humans,” Mike Schauch, expedition co-leader and co-director of Colours of Edziza, said. “In British Columbia we have remote untouched places. The Tahltan lands cover close to 10 per cent of the province and it’s incredibly resource rich. It’s out of sight, and so, out of mind and at risk to development. We wanted to make people aware of what was up there.”
The pair received a Royal Canadian Geographical Society expedition grant to embark upon the Tahltan Leadership Expedition, a 12-day backpacking trip, involving a multigenerational and multicultural team that traversed the Spectrum Mountain range south of Mount Edziza.
Led by Schauch and Curtis Rattray, a Tahltan liaison, the expedition included Colours of Edziza co-director/producer Chantal Schauch, cinematographer and co-director Matt Miles, photographer Eric Saczuk, Tahltan artist Tamara Skubovius, and Tahltan teenager Bo Dean Williams.
After their journey the Schauchs and Miles locked themselves away in Miles’s barn-cum-editing studio on Vancouver Island to sift through the 45-hours of footage from the expedition. The results premiered at the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival in February 2015. Since then the film has journeyed around the world and, closer to home, in classrooms around British Columbia.
“We wanted something that could go from schools to board rooms, so if you want to reach as many people as possible, it’s important not to be too political,” he said. “We had our opinions and communicated them, but without forcing them on people. We wanted to encourage independent thought.”
Schauch said it was important to the team that they not produce the obvious film that “preached to the choir” about resource development. Also critical was that the Tahltans enjoyed it, and though Rattray had been involved in creating the film, it was still a little nerve-wracking for Schauch.
“We had 40-50 Tahltans come to the premier,” Schauch said. “We wanted to show the land as a character, to keep the nature and people together as characters, and they gave us incredible feedback.”
Schauch said he plans to keep the film in festivals, and then after a public viewing in Vancouver on January 14, make it available online.