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Voices Across the Water

Voices Across the Water

There is a moment during the construction of a canoe when its true form is revealed. A hull drops into place. The elegant arc of a bow cuts forth. A similar process sometimes occurs in life, when a person finally discovers their true path.

Fritz Mueller and Teresa Earle’s feature documentary Voices Across the Water follows two master boat builders as they practise their art and find a way back to balance and healing.

For Alaskan Tlingit carver Wayne Price, fashioning a dugout canoe from a single massive red cedar tree is a way to reconnect to the Ancestral Knowledge of Indigenous craftspeople. Wayne’s long hours of labour are buoyed by silly jokes and deep conversation with a new young apprentice, Violet.

Francophone artist Halin de Repentigny hand-makes birchbark canoes, like those once used by the voyageurs. Harvesting raw materials from the Yukon forest, Halin works in painstaking fashion to create his light, strong vessels, lovingly embellished with his fanciful artwork.

But what happens when the old ways are lost? For Wayne, building boats is a means to pass on his skill and expertise to the next generation, while Halin’s labour is more introspective, but both men understand the fragility of knowledge. Connected by their devotion to craft and the critical importance of succession, they carry forward the ancient art of navigating life’s unexpected currents and eddies.

In the final meeting of wood and water, the vessels are launched, carrying friends and family in joyous communion: their journey complete.