The New England region of the United States was prime political territory for the Cree during the battles over Hydro-Quebec’s Great Whale hydro-electric project. So it’s no surprise people there are now heavily sympathetic over the issue of mining and heavy metal contamination around Ouje-Bougoumou.
Rezolution’s documentary, Heavy Metal: A Mining Disaster in Northern Quebec, played to a receptive audience during the Somewhat North of Boston (SNOB) film festival at the New Hampshire Technical Institute in Concord on November 11-12.
Indeed, the heavy metal contamination issue in and around
Ouje-Bougoumou seems to be taking on a life of its own in the U.S. in a way that is reminiscent of the fight to save the Great Whale River. New Hampshire Senator John Sununu’s office even invited Rezolution Pictures to enter their film in the festival, and assisted in making all the arrangements.
There were no problems at the border, but unfortunately director Neil Diamond encountered other problems in Waskaganish. A problem with an airplane’s landing gear stranded the plane on the runway and Diamond up north.
But the late Joseph Shecapio-Blacksmith’s family was on hand for the viewing, arriving early in order to have a private meeting with Senator Sununu.
The images and story seem so much larger and striking when viewed on a large screen. Film producer Ernest Webb said the 100-plus audience was the largest they had for a screening so far.
You could see and hear the concern of audience members during the panel discussion with Webb, The Director of Native American Studies Professor at Dartmonth College Michael Hantichak and geologist Christopher Covel.
An audience member asked Covel how extensive the contamination is. He replied that it was hard to tell because of the fact that the watershed is huge and testing was only done on a small area, involving only three out of 33 mines.
Webb brought up the fact that it wasn’t only the Cree people of Ouje-Bougoumou who are potentially at risk. He mentioned the people of Chibougamau get their drinking water from Lake Chibougamau, which showed definite signs of contamination.
Hanichuck observed that the problem the Crees are facing were same ones facing many Native communities throughout the Americas.
A moment of silence was held for the late Joseph Shecapio-Blacksmith after the film. All who watched Heavy Metal felt they knew this man. They understood what drove him to try to find out what effects the mines were having on his people.
It was touching to hear the discussions after the film in the hallway. Many were asking what they could do to help and what was being done. The film showed why an American Senator and his staff would want to help find answers after meeting Shecapio-Blacksmith, whose strength, integrity and honesty comes through when sharing his concern for the Cree people.
The film offers a rare portrait of how David Bosum’s simple question – “Can mines hurt fish?” – could lead to concrete actions. It follows Christopher Covel and Joseph Shecapio-Blacksmith during their journey to find answers on what is happening with the contaminants, the Cree people and the environment.