After her uncle’s death, a 14-year-old girl must speak on his behalf against a proposed pipeline that would bring oil tanker traffic to the waters around her hometown in British Columbia.
In Kayak to Klemtu, a 14-year-old girl named Ella (Ta’Kaiya Blaney) becomes determined to travel the Inside Passage of the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia, Canada, by kayak as a way to honor her dead uncle Dave, also known as Bear (Evan Adams), who frequents her memories. A proposed pipeline that would see oil tanker traffic through waters of Ella’s beloved homeland is a threat to her community, the First Peoples (natives) and their habitat. Her journey ushers her to the town of Klemtu just in time to testify at the hearing that will determine the outcome of this project.
This film moves along quickly as Ella and her team, which includes her aunt Cory (Sonja Bennett), the widow of Ella’s Uncle Bear, Ella’s cousin Alex (Jared Ager-Foster) who is estranged from his mother Cory, and Ella’s other uncle, Don (Lorne Cardinal), who is eager to see his estranged son in Klemtu when they arrive. From the moment this crew leaves their town of Lund, they run into obstacles: people become ill and even weak, and they struggle with gear, but these trials help the characters to confront the things that are keeping them estranged, and work together as a team, which helps them find their way back to one another. The acting by everyone is very solid, and though it is a sleepy little film, it is quite well written.
There is very little music in this movie, but the setting is breathtaking, and the focus is on the captivating wildlife they, and in turn the viewer, encounter. There is a lot of talk about the significance of how people are defined by their family and land, and about where they belong, which emphasizes the kinship the natives have with their history.
Uncle Bear continues to appear in Ella’s memories throughout the movie, helping to guide her when she is in doubt, encouraging her and instructing her to go on and not give up. Her fear is that she will not make it in time and that she will be inadequate overall. He is the voice in her life that helps lead her into an understanding of her purpose and identity through her heritage. He also appears in flashback form to Alex, who is a young teen, struggling with identity issues as well. Bear helps him ultimately reconcile with his mother. In these poignant scenes, Bear talks about nature and makes many analogies to relationships and human lives overall.
Ella’s eventual testimony is powerful, and after spreading Bear’s ashes in the water during the course of the trip, she boldly proclaims that it is immoral to destroy a culture and illegal to disrupt a barrier ground.
Days after filming wrapped, 200,000 liters of diesel was spilled when an American fuel barge ran aground, spreading for miles and destroying a nearby fishery. After much testimony by First Peoples, however, the northern gateway pipeline project was stopped.
Due to some profanity, Kayak to Klemtu we award the Dove-Approved seal for ages 12+.
The Dove Take
This film is inspiring for its message about coping with loss, prioritizing family bonds, and environmental stewardship.