The Maker of Monsters: The Extraordinary Life of Beau Dick
Catalogue Number: AFI000
Producer: Athene Films Inc
Subject: Arts, Canadian History, Canadian Politics, Canadian Social Studies, Canadian World Studies, Documentary, First Nations Studies, History, Indigenous Issues, Indigenous Peoples, Social Studies
Grade Level: 9 - 12, Post Secondary
Country Of Origin: Canada
Copyright Year: 2017
Running Time: 91:51
Closed Captions: Yes
Maker of Monsters gives an intimate look into the life of one of Canada’s greatest artists. The late Beau Dick was a Kwakwaka’wakw carver from Alert Bay, a small remote village on the Northwest Coast of British Columbia. His remarkable masks have been celebrated across the global art scene as vibrant expressions of West Coast Indigenous culture and a sophisticated crossover into the contemporary art world. Dick had an unprecedented ability to tap into the collective memory of his people and breathe new life into age - old traditions.
This film strives to capture the essence of Beau Dick and his mysterious enigma as an artist who symbolized Canada’s history with the Indigenous and the ethical dilemmas faced in reconciling with that colonialist history. Beau was able to use his celebrity to call attention to the injustices done to his people and the environment.
Even in his activism, Beau relied on his culture to inform him how to be political. He didn’t simply stage protests; he enacted ancient ceremonies, creating a public display infused with spirituality. He challenged the Canadian government, chief-to-chief, on his own terms and by using traditional Kwakwaka’wakw political protocol, with minor adjustments for the contemporary situation.
The film also examines how the Canadian government banned potlatches for their purportedly wasteful use of property, yet the film shows the event’s significance as a marker of resistance. The film sees Beau Dick roused by the spirit of the Idle No More movement as Indigenous people of the land refused to stay silent on the abuse of rights and land claims in the wake of then-Prime Minister Harper’s stagnant pledge for reconciliation. Footage shows Dick as he leads a crowd of supporters on “Awalaskenis”, a journey of hope and unity that marched along Vancouver Island. The march ended at parliament where Dick performed the long dormant act of breaking a shield of copper. This tradition is an Indigenous ritual offering a direct challenge to authority and Dick’s resurrection of the act after it was last performed over 100 years ago signaled a demand for change.
In reaching into his past, the stories of the Kwakwaka’wakw nations are also brought to the forefront; their rich history, their dramatic mythology, and the deep scars left by colonialism. Weaving together the personal and cultural until both become inseparable, Maker of Monsters presents an artist who succeeded in reconciling the two.
WINNER Cultural Currents Award: 2018 Victoria Film Festival
“The film touches on Indigenous history in Canada and how Dick’s masks are an important learning tool in an era of truth and reconciliation.” – Toronto Star
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