Graham Richard —

“With Haida stories, I want to say ‘this is how we see the world,’” said Haida animator, writer, and director Waats’daa Christopher Auchter. “We have a unique story to tell.”

An audience of kids and fun adults packed the room tightly at Gina Guu Aahljuu Naay Performance House to watch the Haida Gwaii debut of The Mountain of SGaana. The award-winning animated short borrows elements from the story of Naa-Naa-Simgat, a classical hero who travels to the depths of the sea to retrieve his loved one.

Kuuniisii ancestors honoured the famous story, carving it into monumental poles and formline designs. Today Waats’daa’s reinterpretation brings the story to the new medium of animation. Children gazed open mouthed as a world of formline unfolded across overlapping planes, submerging them in a Haida way of seeing. Waats’daa and his team from the National Film Board studio in Gastown are presenting the film throughout Haida Gwaii this week at schools and community centres.

The Mountain of SGaana portrays the intersection between ancestral and modern time. Waats’daa described the many hours of difficult technical work the team put into layering animation, effects, lighting, and sound to create the immersive and beautiful film. He also provided explanations of some subtler elements.

When the floor opened for questions, the first, “Can you make another one?”, was quickly followed by a request to watch the film again. The audience settled in as the lights dimmed and the movie started for the second time that evening.


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