Directly Affected is a new documentary telling the stories of West Coast residents who could be impacted by the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion.
While consultation has been extensive for the TransMountain project, the filmmakers with Directly Affected decided to turn their cameras on the people along the route — included several from Chilliwack — who might otherwise have been silenced by the restrictive hearing process.
Director Zack Embree is a Vancouver-based photographer, videographer, and digital storyteller, teamed up with co-producer Devyn Brugge and the Raincoast Conservation Foundation to make Directly Affected.
They travelled the route of the pipeline from Alberta to Vancouver to record different perspectives, and received a type of crowdfunding from Telus to make the documentary with Storyhive.
So is the film art or political propaganda?
“I certainly have my perspective,” Embree replied. “But the way we are seeing this play out has left the sides dangerously polarized.”
Embree calls himself a “chronicler of conscience” and he explains the film was made with people in the Fraser Valley in mind and other B.C. regions, to give them a platform to talk about how it might affected their transected properties to have 890,000 barrels of unrefined bitumen go from Alberta to the Lower Mainland for export.
It’s those human stories, voices from local farmers or fishermen for example that were not being heard, that the filmmakers want to document and capture.
“As an artist, I link my practice with current events,” he said. “It’s important to underline that this is a creative pursuit, and a documentary. The questions being asked in this film are much larger than just one perspective, and they point to some of the larger questions we should all be asking.”
The 22-minute film has interviews with Chilliwack residents, like Yarrow Ecovillage resident Michael Hale, and river steward Chris Gadsden, and others across the Fraser Valley and Vancouver, including First Nations reps.
The film records voices of people who may not have been sanctioned by the National Energy Board for being “directly affected” by the proposed pipeline expansion for export-only bitumen.
“What we’re hearing from Chilliwack was concern about everything from issues around fair compensation and concern their use of the land won’t be impeded,” he said.
He gave an example of a farmer who was worried he might have to apply for permission to drive a tractor over his land during the haying season.
The locals wanted to talk about what they see as the risk to the aquifer, and to their way of life, to the mighty Fraser River, the many species of salmon.
For whatever reason they did not obtain intervenor status at the NEB level, and therefore their testimony is missing in the process.
“With changes made to the regulatory environment around hearings, it led to a narrow definition by the NEB of who will be ‘directly affected.’
“In a democratic society, we need processes in place that support and listen to multiple perspectives,” said Embree. “We also needed to take this issue into the public sphere and ask if this path is not ultimately unsustainable.”
It’s come down to the big question of “how to move forward as a society with respect to release of carbon,” toward “a development economy cognizant of the need to reduce carbon in the atmosphere,” he said.
The film challenges notions around the supposed economic and societal benefits of the project, and juxtaposes the conversation around potential costs.
“We need to have this conversation and to bring it front and centre as a national conversation. What we see happening with this NEB review process is that proponents are allowed to talk about the benefits they see and share that widely. What has been cut out of the process is the environmental and social impacts. So if we’re going to talk about benefits, we have to also talk about the costs.”
Aren’t there only these “costs” incurred if there were to be a disaster?
“There are ongoing costs being incurred by indigenous communities who live downstream from the oil sands in Alberta, around Athabasca and Fort McMurray,” he said. “And scant benefits.”
First phase features the film, which will be the pilot for a web-based series being planned. See more at directlyaffected.tv where footage of constantly updated and added.
“We’re moving into creating content for the series now.”
They requested interviews with Kinder Morgan reps, and NEB officials but were turned down on both counts repeatedly.
A screening of Directly Affected is slated for March 11 at Abbotsford UFV, 33844 King Road, 7 p.m. to 9.m. The event will include an expert panel including Chief Dalton Silver of the Sumas First Nation, film director Zack Embree, UFV agriculture expert Lisa Powell, Lynn Perrin of PIPE-UP and Raincoast biologist Misty MacDuffee.