An interview with Zoe Leigh Hopkins, Kayak to Klemtu filmmaker

  • Sep 6, 2018
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On September 20th, we’re screening Zoe Leigh Hopkins’s debut feature, Kayak to Klemtu, a story of family melded with activism when they travel the Inside Passage together in order to testify against a proposed pipeline and oil tanker traffic.

Zoe is joining us for a Q&A via Skype following the screening, but agreed to answer some questions in advance.

Your film is a statement about why we need to prevent pipelines and oil tanker traffic, and yet, there was unfortunately a spill off the coast of Bella Bella, your hometown, not long after filming was completed. However, with recent news about the Federal Court of Appeal ruling again the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, what words of encouragement would you pass along to activists and filmmakers addressing these issues?

Kayak to Klemtu is a family film that covers a highly political topic: pipelines and tanker traffic.

While I was writing the script, the Northern Gateway Pipeline project that would see tankers through my people’s waters in Bella Bella, was under scrutiny. Just before we went into production, this project was overturned. While this was a big cause for celebration, just one day after we completed production, a tug boat pushing a fuel barge ran aground right beside Bella Bella, and my Nation is still dealing with the environmental disaster that occurred as a result.Just as one threat subsided, the lesser-known, and pre-existing threat of fuel barges traversing our waters struck with full force. We filmed during the height of the Standing Rock protest, and I felt very much connected to that struggle as I was making this film to protect my own people’s water and food source. The fight against the Kinder Morgan pipeline will arise again. The coast is more united than ever to fight it.

My film also touches on the legality and morality of the grizzly bear hunt. When we went into production, it was open season on the grizzly bear in BC. By the time we premiered the film, legislation had passed making the grizzly bear hunt in BC illegal. This was a victory brought on by vocal and caring people on the coast. Change can occur and we can affect change. Raising awareness matters. Films like mine, films like yours, matter.

Kayak to Klemtu was your feature debut. What did you learn while making the film?

I learned so much making my first feature film. Most of my film is outdoors, and most of it is on beaches or on the water. One of the funny things our whole land-loving team learned on the first day of production was that we not only had to contend with daylight hours and the position of the sun, but we had to contend with the tides. We would be filming on a beach and then quickly have to scoot all the equipment up the beach as the tide came up faster than we thought. Or when the tide was going out, we would keep having to creep the kayaks down the beach so they would be at the water’s edge. We’d start filming a scene with dry feet, and by the end we would all be wet.

On a serious note, my team included a fair number of green people, ie, people who hadn’t had a lot (or in some cases any) experience on set. Initially this worried me, as I knew with the water, rocky beaches, countless boats, and travel, that we would have a tough shoot. But it was the attitude of my crew that got us through. I had the best possible team to make this film with me. Everyone was in it for their passion for the story, or their love for the land and sea. It was truly a beautiful experience.

Purchase tickets for the September 20th Kayak to Klemtu event here.

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About Reel Causes Society

Reel Causes partners with filmmakers and Canadian causes dedicated to addressing global social justice issues. We host film screenings followed by a Q&A session to educate and inspire our community, and provide a forum for authentic conversation around the issues that affect us locally.

City of Vancouver
SFU Woodwards
BC Arts Council
Consumer Protection BC