Nearly eight years ago, Ottawa-raised documentary filmmaker, Vicki Lean, immersed herself into the Attawapiskat First Nation. Three states of emergency later, she came away with a documentary film that exposes the reality of living down stream from an open-pit diamond mine.
After the Last River, which begins a three-day run at the ByTowne Cinema Sunday, delves headfirst into what mineral extraction from the De Beers Victor diamond mine has meant for Attawapiskat. The eye-opening documentary provides an intimate glimpse into the complex issues that underpin systemic poverty and crisis in the remote northern community, situated on the edge of James Bay.
The Citizen spoke recently with Lean and the film’s producer, Jade Blair, about the passion project that took more than five years to complete.
Q: What led you to create this film?
A: Both my parents are environmental scientists at the University of Ottawa and my dad studies toxins in the environment, specifically, how mercury is released into wetlands. My mom and dad have both worked with First Nations communities on environmental issues. I joined them on a trip to Attawapiskat about a week after the mine first opened in 2008, to share information about what the potential environmental concerns were.
Q: How did you approach this project?
When I first went to visit the community I approached it from the environmental side, but realized that there were just so many other issues — and having the arrival of the De Beers mine just complicated an already complicated place.
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