Filmmaker goes home to document Red Lake mining life – by Ian Ross (Northern Ontario Business – June 30, 2015)

Established in 1980, Northern Ontario Business provides Canadians and international investors with relevant, current and insightful editorial content and business news information about Ontario’s vibrant and resource-rich North. Ian Ross is the editor of Northern Ontario Business

Abudding Toronto filmmaker has paid an artistic and captivating tribute to his hometown of Red Lake with the release of his first feature-length documentary.

Cliff Caines’ 78-minute film, “A Rock and a Hard Place,” is a nostalgic and critical portrait of a resource-dependent town built upon some of the world’s richest gold deposits.

Under the umbrella of his production company, Headframe Films, the documentary received an honourable mention at the DOXA Documentary Film Festival in Vancouver this past May.

The catalyst for the project was in 2010 when he got wind of rumours that Goldcorp was evaluating the possibility of digging up entire subdivisions of Balmertown, a small community within Red Lake where he grew up, to convert the land into a huge open pit.

Drill rigs were turning in the streets and were planted on people’s front yards. Documenting this end-of-days scenario was intriguing to Caines, but it was not yet a full-formed idea.

“I didn’t know if I had a film and I started going back up looking at the community with fresh eyes,” said the 35-year-old filmmaker after a recent screening in Red Lake.

The focus shifted when the interviews began.

Caines took up residence at his mother-in-law’s house and over a two-year period interviewed 50 to 70 people, ranging from old timers to migrant workers.

“These drills affected the community, but then all these other issues started to pour out of people,” on labour shortages, the lacking of housing and the frugal ways of the migrant workers.

“Red Lake has turned more into the camp model now than the town model. There’s certainly a tension between the culture and heritage of the community and a camp mentality.”

The fortunes of the 90-year-old community have always been tied to the price of gold, but his biggest takeaway is that Red Lake was ultimately built with an expiry date. It’s just a question of when.

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