Kayak To Klemtu

Zoe Leigh Hopkins celebrates Canada’s wilderness and its indigenous native culture in Kayak To Klemtu, a purebred Canadian movie opening in theaters on May 25.

This is an old-fashioned film in the best sense of its meaning. No violence. No sex. No nudity. No pyrotechnics. In short, no gratuitous distractions.

So refreshing.

The plot is as straightforward as a well-aimed arrow. In British Columbia, the Great Bear Rainforest is threatened by a proposal to build an oil pipeline through its pristine expanse. Its inhabitants are up in arms, certain that tankers and fuel barges plying the coastal waters of the Inside Passage will have a detrimental effect on their ancestral land and thus play havoc with their traditional fishing culture.

A public hearing to discuss the pipeline project is due to take place soon. Ella (Ta’kaiya Blaney), a 14-year-old native girl originally from the remote town of Klemtu, plans to present an environmental argument against it at the meeting. She was asked to do so by her uncle, Dave Bear (Evan Adams), a conservationist and tree hugger who has passed on his love of nature to her. Dave, portrayed both as a spiritual soul and an inept businessman, is seen in a series of flashbacks.

Ella and Don

A spirited young woman, Ella wants to prepare herself for the hearing by kayaking to Klemtu, a distance of 500 kilometres. Dave’s widow, Cory (Sonja Bennett), and her son by her first marriage, Alex (Jared Ager-Foster), have agreed to join Ella. Ella’s uncle,┬áDon (Lorne Cardinal), a fisherman and Dave’s brother, tries to dissuade her from undertaking such a potentially hazardous trip. Ella will not be talked out of it. Resigned to her plan, Don teaches them the outdoor skills they will need to complete their trip successfully.


The threesome set off on a tranquil summer day, but soon run into problems. Alex wants to go back home and Cory is afflicted with a stomach ailment. The following morning, they discover that their food supply has been devoured by a bear. In short order, Don arrives to rescue them, and is cajoled into joining them. Nonetheless, he’s skeptical they will make it.

The cinematography alone is worth the price of admission. We’re treated to vistas of speckled clouds in a big sky, rocky shore lines, dense pine forests, schools of salmon, whales, a colony of seals and a bear approaching a waterfall. It’s a celebration of an unspoiled landscape that human beings should not be allowed to despoil through mindless pollution.

The glory of the outdoors

As the kayakers press on toward Klemtu and Ella’s anticipated appearance at the hearing, they weather torrential rains. In the meantime, Alex expresses a desire to live in Klemtu again, while Cory has an accident that sends her into a funk. Through this process, they bond, at least to some degree.

The film is much more than a travelogue. It’s about family and tradition, which are inextricably linked in this unadorned yet satisfying film.