By Patricia W. Elliott
A mention in the New York Times has given an unexpected boost to a Canadian student documentary about the village of La Loche, Sask.
The documentary, Denendeh, was created by University of Regina School of Journalism students in 2010, under the direction of instructors Robin Lawless and Trevor Grant. Some of the documentary is shot at La Loche Community School, the scene of a tragic school shooting on Jan. 22.
“Our film crew wanted to be part of the solution. But for many La Loche residents, we were part of the problem,” writes producer Kent Morrison in an accompanying magazine piece, “The La Loche Project,” which appeared in the school’s creative nonfiction magazine, The Crow.
“The trip (to La Loche) began in high spirits. We all thought we were doing the right thing,” recalls Morrison in the magazine piece. By the end of their stay, the documentarians were less certain of the role they had played in a long history of outside intrusion.
“It was a performative, reflexive approach in which the documentary team clearly declared that they were outsiders. It was really about double-colonization,” said broadcast professor Trevor Grant. “They wanted to declare that they were operating the camera and it was likely influencing the story.”
The documentary team included producer Morrison, director Karin Yeske, editor Annie McLeod, writer Molly Thomas and field crew/researchers Sarah Fitzgerald and Kellah Lavoi.
Denendeh aired on CBC Aug. 28, 2010, and was chosen Best Small Budget Documentary at the 2010 Human Rights DocFest in Toronto. “The La Loche Project” garnered a Western Magazine Gold Award for best Saskatchewan magazine article in 2011.
A New York Times article by Ian Austen, published the day after the school shooting, highlighted Denendeh and quoted comments from the school principal’s interview with the students, resulting in more than 10,000 views.
Denendah / The La Loche Project can been seen at INK Online, the School of Journalism’s student news website.
Patricia W. Elliott is a magazine journalist and assistant professor at the School of Journalism, University of Regina. You can visit her at patriciaelliott.ca.