From Graphic Novel to Film, The Secret Path’s Hidden Message…

18 Oct

Secret Path - WikipediaPlaying at Devour! Food & Film Festival In-Person and Online

Oct 21, 2021 10 to 11am
Al Whittle Theatre
Wolfville NS

Tickets are $5

Also available on Apple TV

The animated film adaptation of Jeff Lemire’s graphic novel, The Secret Path, may seem like an unusual choice for a film festival about food, but I know why. It’s essential to know this bit of Canadian history and its presentation on the big screen will make the message all the more powerful. This offering is part of this year’s RBC Big Picture Program. Its focus is on how cinema can teach kids in schools about various impacts in society, history and the environment. The organizers behind this program are Devour! Film and Food Fest and Nourish Nova Scotia.

It’s sad the federal government funded a segregated school system which ripped local indigenous families apart. They took children away, only to teach them the ways of being a ‘White Canadian.’ This program lasted from the late 1800s to 1996. Not everyone lasted. While a few kids adapted, not everyone was outspoken enough to reveal what happened. This practice took place throughout all of Canada. It wasn’t until the discovery of a mass grave in Kamloops, British Columbia, where it received further international attention.

This issue was examined in a powerfully moving graphic novel published in 2016, and the film quickly followed. Both won accolades for its powerful message of hope. That’s due to Gord Downie’s contribution. This front man of The Tragically Hip was writing songs about ‘Charlie,’ when Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene approached this musician about recording a concept album. This character is based on the real Chanie Wenjack, a young Anishinaabe lad trying to make his way home. He wandered through the cold isolation of the Ontario landscape along a train line before succumbing to the elements.

This work is a highly emotional piece. A box of tissues is recommended because of the visual narrative presented. Downie’s vocals are a mix of melancholy, sadness, and hope. It’s tough to not end a film on a low note, and somehow, the score offers inspiration so that history need not repeat itself. This work is an emotional experience much like Pink Floyd’s The Wall. The only difference is in the narrative that deals with the themes of isolation, desolation, breaking free, and hope. A lot is covered in the ten songs.

Instead of dealing with a tough world, this work focuses on the aspect of is Chanie alone in his plight? He’s not, and we can only hope truth and reconciliation can mend this sore wound that both the album and this film are exposing. 

5 Stars out of 5

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