• A still from feature documentary Fractured Land. (YouTube)Source: YouTube
How does a young First Nations warrior and law student help defend a sacred environment and balance that with people’s need for jobs?
29 Apr 2016 - 5:10 PM  UPDATED 29 Apr 2016 - 5:10 PM

Caleb Behn has been challenged to resolve deep fractures in his natural environment and within his own life.

"If you're going to fight with tools you get the best tools you can," Caleb, from Canada's westernmost province of British Columbia says in the award-winning feature documentary Fractured Land.

Caleb’s father is an environmentalist and residential school survivor. He was taken from his family and placed in a boarding school where he was brought up with the European way of life. In 2016, a Canadian truth and justice commission found many students taken to residential schools were also subject to abuse.

Meanwhile, Caleb's mother is a top executive in the gas and oil industry. 

“When we first set out to explore the controversial shale gas industry [fracking] in northeast BC four years ago we were introduced to a compelling young law student named Caleb Behn who shared with us his deep knowledge on the subject, while introducing us to his family and world,” Damien Gillis and Fiona Rayher, co-directors and co-producers, say in a joint statement.

“What we ended up with is not an ‘issue’ or environmental film but an intensely personal human story.” 

Indeed, Caleb has been confronted with fractures since his birth (he was born with a cleft lip and palate).

In his effort to heal from pain, through hunting and fishing the traditional way from his grandfather, he became compelled to overcome fractures within his entire community. 

"I hate the idea that my people, my territory are happy to be thrown under the bus every God damn time," Caleb says in the documentary.

As he learned to hunt, his grandfather also taught him to check for spots on animals. These spots indicated they had been contaminated by fracking waste from a nearby waste-gas flare stack, his grandfather told him.

After seeing too many contaminated animals, Caleb put down his hunting knives and picked up a different type of weapon – law books.

To save his culture he realises he must leave it behind and fight in the style of colonial Canada. "Trapped in between worlds and between your people," he describes it.

He takes to the courtroom, the boardroom and the media to try and stop companies and the government fracking for shale gas, which is draining and polluting the sacred rivers of Dene in northern BC and across wider Canada as it makes its way to countries around the world.

His journey doesn’t stop there as he reaches out to Indigenous people across the globe to support his mission.

“We met Caleb before even he understood his own potential," Gillis and Rayher said.

"Documenting Caleb's coming-of-age journey has enabled us to delve deep into important topics like fracking, resource politics and Canada's dark colonial legacy, through the eyes of Caleb and his people."

Directors Fiona Rayher and Damien Gillis are no strangers to telling stories about the environment. Fiona’s past work includes Generation Why (2010) and Most Livable City (2010). Damien Gillis has produced Farmed Salmon Exposed and Oil in Eden.

Fractured Land, which was produced in association with CBC’s documentary channel and Knowledge Network, was handed the 'Best BC Film' and the 'VIFF Impact Canadian Audience Award' at the 2015 Vancouver International Film Festival.

It has earned it a place as one of the top 10 audience favourites at the 2015 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival and picked up the 'Audience Choice Award – Best Canadian Documentary' at the 2016 Available Light Film Festival in the Yukon.

“After four intense years of filming in northern Canada and around the globe, we’re thrilled and honoured to share Caleb and his family’s timely, important story with the world,” Rayher and Gillis say.


Watch Fractured Land on NITV Monday 2 May @ 7:30pm or on SBS On Demand HERE