Memories of Earth (Mémoires de la terre)

Documentary, colour, 2002
Running time: 01:10:00
Director: Jean Lemire
Animation: Frédéric Back
Narrator: Vlasta Vrana
Camera: Georges Dufaux, Martin Leclerc, Jacques Bouffard
Underwater camera: Mario Cyr
Animation camera: Claude Lapierre
Animation production manager: Hubert Tison
Location sound: Claude Lahaye, Hubert Macé de Gastines
Picture editing: Alain Belhumeur
Sound design: Claude Beaugrand
Original music and orchestration: Simon Leclerc, in collaboration with Richard Séguin
Singer: Guujaaw
Producers: Roger Frappier, Jean Lemire and Claude Cartier
Participants: James Hart, Frédéric and Ghylaine Back, Guujaaw, Mabel P. Williams

Original concept

Around 2000, the filmmaker Jean Lemire proposed making a documentary on and with Frédéric Back on any topic he care to. Back chose the renaissance of Haida art and suggested highlighting how the Haida are reclaiming their ancestral land and culture after the ravages of colonization, epidemics, and depletion of their natural resources through logging and industrial fishing.

The film

The documentary was shot on the Queen Charlotte Islands off the coast of British Columbia and also included some animated sequences created by Frédéric Back (the last done to date using the same process as in his films.) Director Jean Lemire decided to have him explore the Haida territory in the company of the world-renowned carver James Hart, Chief of the Eagle Clan. They were to probe the memories of Earth through Haida art and mythology, which for over 10,000 years have captured the essence of nature. Like the Great Raven that stole the moon, the two artists try to liberate the spirit of the past so it can teach us to protect the ancestral land and the surrounding waters. The film is meant as an ode to creation and a tribute to the Earth Mother, the land its people call Haida Gwaii.

This complex production turned out to be a disappointment for Frédéric Back since it does not show the young Haida carvers who were working on six totem poles during the shooting of the documentary. He also would have liked to have had the same conditions as he enjoyed at Radio-Canada for working on the animation.