Doc Film on Robert Davidson Premieres at VIFF

On October 1st, the VIFF (Vancouver International Film Festival) premiers a Robert Davidson documentary – Haida Modern.

In the new documentary Haida Modern, Davidson recalls wandering the Museum of Anthropology at UBC as a young man and seeing the art his ancestors created. But when he returned to Haida Gwaii, he recalls, there was almost nothing.

“I felt there was an emptiness,” he says.

Shortly afterward, Davidson and his brother Reg began carving what would become the first new totem pole in a century.

For Davidson, the totem pole was about giving people something to celebrate.

In the summer of 1969, the pole was raised.

The culture, to use Davidson’s word, was “awoken.”

“I had no idea how important it was.”

Now in his 70s, Davidson is continuing to carve, create and captivate.

Over the course of the film Davidson tells stories about his parents, about playing cowboys and Indians (he was always a cowboy) about kindness, friends on skid row, and about living in two cultures.

His stories are underscored by lingering shots of wildlife – at least one of which came at great personal risk to the filmmakers.

In the 50 years since he carved his first totem pole and saw it raised on Haida Gwaii, Robert Davidson has come to be regarded as one of the world’s foremost modern artists. And yet, in the insightful interviews captured here, he retains a remarkably soft-spoken manner and a charming humility that belies what an influential figure he’s become in both the realms of art and activism. In listening to his sage words and admiring his sublime handiwork, we come to understand how widespread appreciation of his art has stoked interest in the 14,000-year-old culture that spawned it and motivated non-Indigenous Canadians to support First Nations activists intent on defending their heritage and the land they hold sacred.

Charles Wilkinson (Haida Gwaii: On the Edge of the World) brings his trademark inquisitiveness and craftsmanship to this revealing portrait of an unassuming living legend. Weaving together engaging interviews with the artist’s offspring and a host of admirers from all walks of life, Haida Modern leaves you inclined to believe Davidson when he surmises that art may just possess the power to save us from ourselves.

A trailer on Haida Modern is available here.

A new collection of Robert Davidson’s artworks will be arriving at our gallery soon – please contact us directly for more details.


Excepts provided by VIFF and Northshore News