One of the first films where I recognized Native people as being genuine was Boyce Richardson’s Job’s Garden. Job Bearskin, the grandfather of one of my classmates, was exactly the way I saw him in Richardson’s documentary. Smiling, kindly, friendly and dignified, even as he limped, by our playground on his way to wherever he was headed. Job Bearskin was our first live movie star when we were school children on the island of Fort George.
Richardson’s films and, later, his books, reminded us to our own culture and people. These were films where we could actually follow what was going on onscreen. They were in Cree and had been filmed in our very own backyards. One of my favourite scenes from his works is the conclusion of The Cree Hunters of Mistassini when the Blacksmith, Jolly and Voyageur families leave their winter camp as a Cree hunter’s drum plays. It is melancholy, hopeful, powerful and pure cinema.
Richardson was the Canadian Native people’s champion at a time when very few of his ilk even dared such an act and we are the better for it. Journalist, filmmaker, pioneering blogger, writer and scourge of his own chosen occupations, Boyce is not an easy interview. Witness the following.
Epitaph: I neither need nor want one.
Most treasured possession: I’m not into things. It’s all just stuff.
How you would like to be remembered? I don’t want to be remembered, I just want to be recycled.
Sight you like to see: These are crazy questions!
Worst habit: Agreeing to inane interviews.
Happiest moment: George Bernard Shaw said, “Happiness is not something worth aspiring to.”
Greatest accomplishment: When I went to James Bay 25 years after I made Job’s Garden, the Crees seemed to trust me.
Childhood ambition: To be a world-class cricketer.
Your idea of misery: To have a toothache in a peasant village in India.
Place you would like to visit: Patagonia.
Current state of mind: I’m more radical now than when I was young.
Funniest person you know: My son Thom, commonly known as S.O.B.
Title of your autobiography: From The Ninth Decade.
Smartest person you know: Linus Pauling who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry and peace.
Last fight you were in: When I was in primary school in Invercargill, New Zealand, when I was 7 or 8 and I lost. He was smaller than me and I got the message.
Most interesting person you know: Job Bearskin.
First job: Copyholder in the reading room of the Southland Times in Invercargill when I was 17. The lowest form of journalism.
Worst thing you’ve ever said to anyone: You are a nasty piece of work.
Brush with greatness: Pandit Nehru
What makes you angry? When the All Blacks lose.
Inspiration: When Nelson Mandela dictated the terms of his own release from jail through sheer moral power.
Favourite line from a poem: “Dull would he be of soul who could pass by a sight so touching in its majesty.” William Wordsworth
Favourite word: Disestablishmentarianism.
Best advice you ever heard: Keep the seat of your pants on the chair if you want to write a book.
Talent you wish you had: I wish I was a good writer.
Thing you hate most about yourself: I’m a lying hypocrite.