A 22-year-old Robert Davidson and his grandfather Tsinii on the day of the pole raising. (NFB photo)

Haida film Now Is The Time selected for Sundance

Recognition continues for tale of Old Massett totem pole raising

The accolades continue to roll in for Now Is The Time, Haida director Christopher Auchter’s short film about the 1969 totem pole raising in Old Massett, with the film now receiving selection for the Sundance Film Festival.

The upcoming event, which has taken place in Park City, Utah every year since 1978, will take place from Jan. 23-Feb. 2, 2020. The festival is especially selective, which was certainly highlighted in the case of Now Is The Time. Of an original 10,390 submissions in the short film category, 350 were selected for the shortlist. At last, the final list of 74 short films were chosen for viewing. Auchter said this puts the decision in even more perspective.

READ MORE: Haida story Now Is The Time headed to the international stage

“I got word through email from the National Film Board a couple of weeks ago, so it was hard to keep my mouth from flapping,” Auchter said. “It’s one of those festivals that myself as a filmmaker only kind of dream of, but it’s so difficult to get in that you put it in the back of your mind not wanting to get your hopes up.”

Massett Village in 1878, prior to the removal of the poles. (NFB photo)

Auchter spent the beginning of November touring Haida Gwaii to attend community screenings of the film, which focuses on the process it took for Haida carver Robert Davidson and the people of Old Massett and Haida Gwaii to both carve and hoist the first totem pole raised on the islands in a century. Aucther said the viewings were a series of moving experiences.

“There’s so much pride and people sharing their stories of their loved ones, or if they were there, or their grandparents or their parents. Just how much it meant to them, it was really something special,” Auchter said.

Haida elders gathered on Aug. 22, 1969 to celebrate the first totem pole raising in more than 100 years. (NFB photo)

“When the film ended at the Masset screening everybody got up and clapped, and the stories just started coming out. It was such an organic and beautiful night, I don’t know if I’ll ever experience something like that again in my life,” he added. “Each location would have its little special moments. It was really everything I had hoped the film could achieve in terms of expressing that day and how important it was for our culture.”

Auchter will be heading down to Utah near the end of January for the festival, eager to continue telling the historical Haida story to audiences from around the world.

READ MORE: Robert Davidson the focus of new documentary


Alex Kurial | Journalist
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