The following article was written by Jennifer Cikaluk as part of a series of articles about filmmakers coming to the Salt Spring Film Festival on March 2-4, 2018. Filmmaker Natalie Boll will be attending the festival and leading a discussion about the film following the screening. The Filmmaker series is sponsored by: Stonehouse B&B, Harbour House Hotel and Hastings House.
Meet Beau Dick – Maker of Monsters: Interview with Co-Director/Producer Natalie Boll
Meet Beau Dick: Maker of Monsters is an intimate portrait of a man, an artist, an activist, a father, a mentor and a true Canadian legend. Co-directors & co-producers Natalie Boll and LaTiesha Fazakas have created an authentic film that chronicles the life and achievements of master carver and storyteller, Beau Dick. The film provides an honest, candid and in-depth look at his life, his influences, his accomplishments and his struggles.
Through interviews with family, community members, students, and the art world you come to know the enigmatic character of Beau Dick the person and the artist. He was gifted with an inherent skill to craft history, culture and spirit into powerful works of art. Beau Dick found his place in the world. It was a place where art, culture and activism collided. Driven by a responsibility to his family, his community and to nature, he challenged those in his presence to be aware, be responsible and to take action. Interspersed throughout the film are images of his stunning carvings, providing the visual affirmation of his exceptional talent, along with footage of Potlatch ceremonies which provide a window into the beautiful and powerful inner world of Beau’s culture for which he dedicated so much of his life to celebrate and preserve.
Kwakwaka’wakw hereditary chief, Beau Dick was born in Alert Bay, spent his early years in the remote Kwakwaka’wakw village of Kingcome Inlet on the Northwest Coast of British Columbia then moved with his mother to Vancouver. He returned to Alert Bay as a teenager and learned how to carve from his father and grandfather. As a young apprentice under master carvers such as Henry Hunt and Doug Cranmer, Beau began to create complex and exciting work. He soon emerged as a young genius. He developed a great understanding of the symbiotic relationship between his art and the world around him. Guided by his connection to nature, culture, community and ritual customs, his work transcended beyond expressions of West Coast indigenous culture to cross over to the contemporary art world.
He embraced his role in supporting the preservation of these rituals. He saw life in all objects as taught by his ancestors and accepted the responsibility to be a leader and mentor to others. His carvings emerged intense with expression, fierce and powerful, each piece beholding life and spirit.
“Our whole culture has been shattered, it’s up to the artists now to pick up the pieces and try and put them together and put them where they belong.” (Beau/ Meet Beau Dick)
As Beau grew older, his work took on new relevance as he began to see the damage on the world around him. He used his position and his talent as a catalyst for activism and to call attention to the injustices done to his people and to the destruction of the environment.
“When we talk about restoration and preservation of our culture we look at art first and we wonder, what does it mean? We talk about identity and we look at the carving, and we wonder, what does it mean? We talk about territorial claims and how is that pertinent to what these totems stand for, and what does that mean?” (Beau/ Meet Beau Dick)
Beau had his demons and struggled with addiction for years, of which he overcame and found deeper clarity in his purpose. He said his culture helped bring him up and now it was his turn to give back. His call to action was clear, and his mission inspired all who knew him.
“Our First Nations issues are all of our issues, because it reflects on all of Canada.” (Beau/ Meet Beau Dick)
Beau became Artist-in-Residence at the UBC Department of Art History. His art has been shown in galleries and museums across Canada, the US and Europe. Beau Dick passed away in March 2017. He continued to mentor and contribute through to the end of his life. He found acceptance and fulfillment in those moments of mentorship whether it was the passing on of tradition to a young carver in his little studio in Alert Bay or through his collaborations with art students during his residency at UBC.
His art will live on, inspiring all that are privileged to experience it. His legacy, embodied in his art, his activism and his commitment to preserve the culture and traditions of the Kwakwaka’wakw people will be carried out in the actions of those who choose to follow in his path.
I reached out to Co-Director and Producer, Natalie Boll to talk to her about the film and her experience as a filmmaker on Meet Beau Dick: Maker of Monsters.
Q & A Questions:
How was the film Meeting Beau Dick conceived, and why did you feel this was an important documentary to make?
The project started almost eight years ago. Latiesha Fazakas, my partner, started the project in early 2010. She approached me in 2012 to help her produce the film. She later brought me to her house to show me Beau's work. The minute I saw the first Beau mask I had an intense reaction. It was so moving. It was like encountering the energy spirit that was alive.
We went on to shoot a demo for the project together in 2012 traveling to Alert Bay. When the ferry pulled into the island, I was overcome with energy. In words, it is hard to explain. It is just that magical. From that day on, it embarked on a 5-year journey to document Beau.
We felt it was essential to tell Beau's story because he was a complex and significant person in our lives. We felt so moved by Beau's story, his philosophies and his work on so many levels. We wanted others to meet Beau as well. You are blessed to meet someone like Beau once in your lifetime.
What was he like? Can you tell me about a special moment you spent with him?
I had a lot of special moments with Beau. He had an amazing ability to know what story or advice you needed at that particular moment of your life.
One beautiful story about Beau was his interactions with youth. My daughter would love to visit his workshop at UBC. She was always inspired when we would visit him. One day when my daughter was only eight years old, she asked me to take her to Kitsilano Beach. She wanted to find an eagle feather for a gift for Beau. I tried to explain to her that they are not very common to find in Vancouver laying on the beach. She was adamant that we find one. We walked up to the beach and there right where she stood was a large eagle feather. She was so excited and went straight to Beau to give it to him as a gift. He put it in his hat. Every time she saw Beau she wanted to make sure he still had the feather. And he always did.
When was the decision made for a directorial collaboration between yourself and LaTiesha Fazakas? Can you tell me more about the importance of collaboration in the filmmaking process and if you found this integral in the success of this specific project?
Initially, our directorial collaboration came to be because of lack of funding. As unique as the story, the film was done in a very unconventional way. The film had no grants or television network funding and was done entirely by private funds and the support of volunteers. Over the course of five years of filming, the film was a total collaboration with many friends and family all coming together and helping the project get made.
The film was co-directed both myself and Latiesha Fazakas; both of us at the time were single mothers and juggling family and businesses. Being able to co-direct allowed for us to take turns filming, traveling and also taking turns financially supporting the film. It was a beautiful gift to be able to support each other in the way that we did.
Beau was an artist, an activist, a teacher and so much more. What do you think was his most influential and important role and did he ever express to you what he thought was most important?
There were so many layers to Beau that it would be hard to say what would be most important to him. For me, I felt he was a hugely important role in our community as a mentor for so many people. For me, the most important thing that I learned from him was that you are an individual that is part of a community. He made me look at everything differently.
Beau passed away this last March. Did Beau have the chance to see the finished film? Can you tell us how he felt about the film?
Beau was able to see our rough cut. We had wanted to film some additional carving shots, and he said "Why? It's perfect."
How do you know when your story’ is finished, when to walk away? Do you feel you captured everything you wanted in Meet Beau Dick?
In the end, the lack of funding became a blessing. We ended up filming for over five years. If we had funding partners, we would have had to abide by deadlines. We would have had to submit a story and schedules. In the end, we were able to film what we felt was right and until we naturally felt the story ended.
Did you tell the story you think Beau would want to be told?
Well, we did not want to tell Beau's story. We wanted to let the story tell itself organically. We often say that we did not direct the film. We went along for a journey and listened to the story.
Do you think documentary films like yours should have a call to action for the viewer and if so what would that call to action be?
Well, I think that the call to action is to take the time to learn about what is happening today in Canada and the world. And learn about our Canadian history, so we can together make informed actions.
By Jennifer Cikaluk