10/03/2012 05:01 EDT | Updated 12/03/2012 05:12 EST

Art for an Oil-Free Coast in B.C.


Raincoast Conservation Foundation is excited to present the documentary film, Reflections: Art for an Oil-Free Coast, which shares the story of an expedition of artists into the truly stunning and remote landscape of British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest, weaving together the artists' work and their emotional response to a region and people at risk.

The film, a collaborative effort of Raincoast and Strongheart Productions, premieres at the Vancouver International Film Festival Wednesday, October 3 and will be shown again at the festival on October 8 and 12.

Fifty artists -- some of the country's most celebrated and many who are First Nations -- took up paintbrushes and carving tools to portray Canada's fragile "raincoast," one they feel is threatened by Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline and supertanker project. Over a two-week expedition to B.C.'s central and north coast this past summer, sponsored and organized by Raincoast, they depicted the rich biodiversity and ecological elements of the forest, intertidal, and ocean zones, and the people, flora and fauna that have lived there for thousands of years.

As these artists worked in the Great Bear Rainforest, among pristine estuaries and alongside bears, they created an amazing collection of art to share with the world. Hopefully, this film can similarly be a vehicle to show people just how amazing this region really is and what's at stake. Canadian icon Robert Bateman articulately summarizes the crux of the matter in the film, stating, "The real problems facing this planet are not economic, and they are not technical. They are philosophical. So we need to get our philosophy right. What way do we want to go forward? We need a critical mass of people who care deeply in their hearts about nature. And that's partly what we're all about here."

The artists created works of art inspired by being in a magical place. As filmmakers, the goal of Cameron Dennison and Ian Hinkle is to share a little slice of the Great Bear Rainforest with the rest of the world, so that people can understand just how important it is to protect this region.

"I first explored the Great Bear Rainforest while shooting a documentary 15 years ago. Now, after working on films all over the world, this coast means more to me than ever. It is essential to share this place with people who have not seen it first hand, which is something this group of artists is doing with their work, and something we are doing with the release of this film," said Victoria-based filmmaker Ian Hinkle, co-producer of Reflections.

"This unique region and the people that inhabit it has opened my heart. It demands our attention before it's too late. Reflections is a story about these artists and their choice to act, with art as their voice. I hope people will watch the film and see the Great Bear Rainforest for what it is -- something worth protecting," said the film's director Cameron Dennison of Strongheart Productions.

The journey into the Great Bear Rainforest had a profound impact on the participants, dramatically deepening their commitment to stopping the proposed Enbridge project. B.C. musician, painter and artist for an oil-free coast Mae Moore said, "Upon my return from the Great Bear Rainforest expedition with other artists for an oil-free coast, I felt changed on a cellular level. I went from opposing in my head the Northern Gateway pipeline and super tanker traffic on the coast, to feeling solidly and irrevocably committed in my heart to stopping this."

The artists' goal is to bring attention to the dramatic beauty and ecological diversity that will be at risk if tankers are permitted to ship tar sands oil through the region's narrow and dangerous channels. The resulting works, combined with prose and poetry, will be published this November as an art book titled Canada's Raincoast at Risk: Art for an Oil-Free Coast. The original artworks will become part of a travelling art show to raise public awareness of what's at stake for this priceless coast and why it needs to be kept oil-free.

The 31st annual Vancouver International Film Festival runs through October 12, presenting over 380 unique films from around the world.