By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
The closing night film of the festival was an inspiring and beautiful, family friendly film that not only honors Native American traditions, but also offers some heartfelt environmental messages. Written and directed by Zoe Hopkins, Kayak to Klemtu tells the story of 14 year-old Ella (Ta’kaiya Blaney), and her desire to pursue her late uncle’s goal of reaching out to other native people to join his cause of saving their beloved land. Ella’s Uncle Dave (Evan Adams) may not have been a very practical man, but was someone driven by his heart and passions.
When a proposed oil pipeland threatens to change the land and environment of Dave’s homeland and the land of the surrounding residents, Dave decides that he and his family should reach out to the Native people’s council in Klemtu to persuade them to join his fight. Unfortunately though, Dave is already very ill and doesn’t live long enough to accomplish his goal. Still in mourning, but determined to make her Uncle’s wish come true, Ella persuades Dave’s widow Cory (Sonja Bennett), her son Alex (Jared Ager-Foster), and her most reluctant Uncle Don (Lorne Cardinal) to join her in kayak trip along the shores of the Great Bear Rain-forest to Klemtu so that she can deliver the address her beloved Uncle Dave wanted to give.
Zoe Hopkins, who co-wrote this film with Michael Sparaga, has made a genuinely delightful, poignant and lovely movie with Kayak to Klemtu. The film has a beautiful heart, but also entertains with sweet and amiable humor. The film is not only a great coming-of-age story for the Ella character, but is also a touching story about familial bonding and mourning over the loss of a dearly loved family member. The film also feature great performances by the cast, particularly Ta’kaiya Blaney who gives a beautiful and empowering performance as Ella. Sonja Bennett is also rather charming and funny as Ella’s Aunt Cory, a sweet, but very inexperienced camper and kayaker. Though most of the humor works well in the film, some of it does land a bit heavily.
Still, I was quite pleased, entertained, and touched by this lovable Canadian film. The film is set for a release in Canada later this year, but so far, nothing has been announced regarding a release in the U.S. I hope it does make it here eventually and other countries. A film this enjoyable and important should reach worldwide audiences. It did make for a satisfying conclusion to the Cine Las Americas film festival and as evidenced by the response it received by its audience there, I know I wasn’t the only one to feel this way.