Film puts Mackenzie River in national spotlight

Film puts Mackenzie River in national spotlight
A promotional shot from Cold Amazon, a new 22-minute documentary on the Mackenzie River basin, shows aerial footage of the expansive watershed stretching to the Arctic Ocean.Photo: Gordon Foundation.

A new documentary profiling the geographical vastness, ecological vulnerability and cultural significance of the Mackenzie River watershed will be screened for the first time this Wednesday evening in Yellowknife.

Cold Amazon, a 22-minute film produced by the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation in Toronto and shot by Northerners, will make its exclusive, advance screening debut at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre on Mar. 12 before it makes its official premiere as the opener of the Water Docs international festival in Toronto for Canada Water Week.

The film is intended to be both an educational tool and a celebratory work for those living in the Mackenzie River basin, said Carolyn DuBois, water program officer for the foundation.

“We’re seeing that a lot of people haven’t even heard of the basin outside of the basin, and we thought that this was a great way to showcase it to some of the southern audiences in Canada and also internationally, but also to have something to celebrate the basin among Northerners. That’s why it was so crucial for us to have those Northern voices,” she said.

The film is narrated by a well-known Northerner, former journalist Paul Andrew, and features interviews with a variety of folks up and down the river system, from government officials to Dene elders. It was shot by the NWT-based production company, aRTLeSS Collective, and written by a former NWT resident, journalist Tim Querengesser.

“You’ll hear from scientists, policy makers, artists, as well as more general advocates for the Mackenzie basin,” DuBois said. “One of the things that’s really special about the film is it provides some beautiful footage of the basin, gorgeous footage in both the winter and the summer, which is great, and so you’ll have aerial footage as well as some time on the water. It’s a visual piece as well as a story that’s told through perspectives of the people that live there.”

The film focuses predominantly on the Northwest Territories, but does make mention of the transboundary issues shared with the other provinces whose waters feed into the basin, with interviewees calling for protection of the watershed.

“I would like to see it spark dialogue among people across the country about what sustainable freshwater management means, and what are we going to do to ensure that natural wonders like the Mackenzie basin are protected, not just because they’re beautiful and should be celebrated, but because they sustain people in the North,” DuBois said.

Cold Amazon is part of the Gordon Foundation’s ongoing campaign to bring attention to the Mackenzie basin in an attempt to shape public policy. The new initiative focuses on freshwater and the North, and partners with the ongoing community-based water monitoring efforts happening in the NWT to ensure Northerners have access to sound data around freshwater resources.

“It’s an introduction to such an enormous basin that many people haven’t even heard of,” DuBois said. “Everybody’s heard about the Amazon River basin and so few Canadians have even heard about our own basin here.”

Wednesday’s screening in Yellowknife begins with a mix and mingle at 6:00 p.m., followed by a showing of the film and a panel discussion facilitated by Paul Andrew.

The film will be screened across the NWT at a later time. DVD copies of the film and screening kits, which include discussion questions and other tools for public showings, can be made available on request by emailing Megan Lorius at

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  • spudwrench34
    April 2, 2014, 9:53 PM

    Year 1951 I was a cook hired by Curly Parsons on the government boat , when we crossed the great slave lake, the lake was as smooth as glass . We surveyed from the entrance of the Mackenzie River to Norman Wells . I can still remember that journey to this date April 2nd 2014 . I was seventeen years old then . Some day I hope to go home to Fort Smith for a visit .


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