This documentary shows how a canoe is built the old way. César Newashish, a 67-year-old Atikamekw man from the Manawan Reserve north of Montreal, uses only birchbark, cedar splints, spruce roots and gum. Building a canoe solely from the materials that the forest provides may become a lost art, even among Indigenous peoples whose traditional craft it is. The film is without commentary but text frames appear on the screen in Cree, French and English.
A word from Tënk
Throughout his successful career as a cameraman and director, Bernard Gosselin has taken an interest in professions and ways of life and has draw links between them to traditions. In César’s Bark Canoe, he turns to Indigenous knowledge, following the step-by-step (we almost want to say frame-by-frame) process of building a bark canoe. Relying only on the power of his shots (the film is free of any narration), Gosselin shines a light on the particular genius of César Newashish, an Atikamekw member of the Manawan Reserve, who elevates the construction of this means of transportation to high art.
Curator of Collection, NFB