April 19, 2011
Review By Nick Stanger
Editorial note: Uninterrupted is reviewed here following its role as inspiration for a nightly ‘cinematic spectacle’ on Vancouver’s Cambie Street Bridge during the summer of 2017 (see uninterrupted.ca).
Uninterrupted, a film about a very special place in British Columbia, the Adams River, uses a celebratory and creative technique to share the beauty and richness of the sockeye run, which sees thousands of salmon returning there every year. This six-minute National Film Board of Canada film uses a multiple split screen technique to help juxtapose and compare different textures, colours, and movements and provide an artistic rendering of the last stage of a sockeye’s life.
The soundtrack uses a specific water-themed technique, which is overwhelming at times. It is a bit grating at first, with a loud crescendo that fills a room’s speakers, but then shifts to slow, quiet dripping noises and altered soundscapes of other water features. Perhaps this is a comment on the incredible power of the sockeye, as they move up the Fraser River and into the much mellower Shuswap and then Adams rivers. Near the end a celebratory chant is sung by a Secwecpemc member, Peter August-Sjödin, which brings closure to the piece in a culturally centered way.
With a Secwepemc narrator and famed Neskonlith elder and ethnobotanist, Dr. Mary Thomas, speaking in Secwepemctsin (over top of the soundtrack at times), the knowledge on offer is somewhat opaque for English-speakers as there are no subtitles. This is likely appropriate and intentional, since the stories and knowledge being shared may not be allowed for all viewers to hear or understand. It also speaks to the artistic nature of the work as a celebration of the sockeye and First Nations’ special relationship with those fish. However, I wonder about how a more thorough acknowledgement of territory could have helped frame this film more fully and set up a conversation about reconciliation.
The images are striking, focusing on mostly the water landscapes, the sockeye themselves, and the substrate at the bottom of the river. They start with life-giving grasses, textures of ponderosa pine, and vibrant sockeye dorsal fins and travel through the short adult spawning lifespan of the fish during the time they are in the Adams. Greens, blues, reds, and browns dominate. Near the end we see decomposing fish underwater, as well as the broader context of the little river and its shoreline. Throughout, multiple screens project at once, creating repeated and contrasting images, to show the diversity of the landscape, biology, and experience of the sockeye.
I had the great fortune of snorkeling the Adams River during the 2003 sockeye spawn with a fisheries biologist. This was an incredible experience, both in seeing the biology happening in front of me, but also in experiencing the colours, smells, and sounds. This film goes some way towards recreating that experience. As a resource, this film could help local teachers who might want to explore the art and feeling of the Adams run. It could be paired with some of BC’s new K-12 curriculum, developed into art and ecology lessons, or framed as an Indigenous knowledge piece (with lots more context). It also appeals generally to British Columbians who are interested in the well-known Adams River sockeye salmon run, which is both very accessible and difficult to see due to its seasonality.
Nettie Wild, director
National Film Board of Canada, 2012. 6 min.