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Haida Modern

Haida artist Robert Davidson is one of the foremost cultural icons of the age. HAIDA MODERN features candid and revealing conversations with the artist himself, along with commentary from art historians, politicians, musicians and family members detailing the importance and impact of Davidson's work. Highlighted in these conversations is the story of how Davidson carved the first totem pole raised on the island of Haida Gwaii in over 100 years_a spiritual and political act credited with sparking a reawakening of Indigenous culture in the Pacific Northwest.

In HAIDA MODERN, we see how Indigenous and non-Indigenous citizens alike_ inspired by Davidson's art_are coming together to forge political movements led by Indigenous activists and artists, fighting the critical environmental battles of our time. That is the great and enduring power of Robert Davidson's 14,000 year old indigenous Haida culture: the power of an art so beautiful, it must be seen over and again.

'This beautiful film gives a rich introduction to Robert Davidson's work, showcasing his exquisite technique and constant innovation, but it does a lot more than that: demonstrates that the entanglement between art, cultural identity and the assertion of Indigenous sovereignty has been a constant, vital and innovating presence in Haida Gwaii. The film brings in powerful glimpses of colonial forces, including missionization, residential schools, land theft, environmental devastation and cultural appropriation and the intergenerational trauma they inflicted. It will work well as an introduction to Native art in a survey course or as an entree into Northwest Coast art in a Native-focused class.' Elizabeth Hutchinson, Professor of American Art History, Barnard College/Columbia University

'This stunningly beautiful film about the most brilliant living Northwest Coast First Nations artist - and among the most distinguished 20th century sculptors - both brought tears to my eyes and filled me with joy. Masterfully interweaving artistic development and reflectively honest autobiography with the Haida's painful past and optimistic future, it reveals Davidson's depth, vision, humor and humanity. It also contributes to the contemporary decolonization movement with his powerful responses to residential schools, rapacious clear-cut logging on Haida Gwaii and the current global warming crisis. This is a film everyone should not only watch but contemplate how art can contribute to a better world.' Aldona Jonaitis, Director Emerita, Museum of the North, University of Alaska-Fairbanks, Author, Art of the Northwest Coast

'Haida Modern beautifully explores how Robert Davidson brought Haida culture back to its people...[It] cleverly and beautifully lays out a deeper argument.' Marsha Lederman, Globe and Mail

'This quietly persuasive film chronicles the life, family, and art of the most celebrated living Northwest Coast artist, Robert Davidson. It is also an eloquent and beautiful meditation on stewardship of the land, the aesthetic continuities between natural forms and Haida artistic forms, and the links between artistry and activism.' Janet Catherine Berlo, Professor of Art History and Visual and Cultural Studies, University of Rochester, Author, Native North American Art

'Haida Modern is a scenic, educational journey into Haida Art. This documentary can be used in high school and college classrooms as a foundation for Pacific Northwest Coast Art curriculum. It is a perfect example of bringing the past to the present and explaining Haida history and culture through the work of Robert Davidson.' Melissa Leal, Ohlone/Costanoan Esselen Nation, Instructor of Social Science and Anthropology, Sierra College

'Fascinating, entertaining and eye-opening.' Dana Gee, Vancouver Sun

'Remarkable story...breathtaking.' Jennifer Van Evra, CBC Radio

'Spending pandemic lockdown in his White Rock studio, artist Robert Davidson sees the world playing out one of the main messages in Haida Modern...Davidson sees the pandemic as nature hitting the pause button, throwing us into a state of 'iihldaa, the Haida word for 'transformation'...'Nature keeps being the victim,' Davidson laments, pre-COVID-19, in the film...'I am very concerned for the state of western culture.'' Tina Schliessler, The Georgia Straight

'Haida Modern leaves you inclined to believe Davidson when he surmises that art may just possess the power to save us from ourselves.' Vancouver International Film Festival


Main credits

Davidson, Robert (on-screen participant)
Wilkinson, Charles (film director)
Wilkinson, Charles (director of photography)
Wilkinson, Charles (film producer)
Wilkinson, Charles (editor of moving image work)
Schliessler, Tina (director of photography)
Schliessler, Tina (film producer)
Schliessler, Tina (editor of moving image work)

Other credits

Cinematography & picture editing, Charles Wilkinson, Tina Schliessler; music & sound design, Charles Wilkinson.


modern art, contemporary art, sculpture, carving, woodworking, haida gwaii, haida, robert davidson, indigenous culture, indigenous art, artists, artist, first nations, canada, totem pole, totems, masset, skidegate, hydaberg, haida modern, art history, pacific northwest, indigenous activism, environmentalism,; "Haida Modern"; Bullfrog Films

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