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HAIDA MODERN: The Art and Activism of Robert Davidson

HAIDA MODERN: The Art and Activism of Robert Davidson

Award-winning documentary directed by Charles Wilkinson
Broadcast Premiere on Knowledge Network: June 2 at 9:00pm
Free Streaming Online on

Vancouver director Charles Wilkinson’s new documentary, Haida Modern – a portrait of legendary Haida artist Robert Davidson – will have its broadcast premiere on British Columbia’s public broadcaster, Knowledge Network at 9:00pm on Tuesday, June 2.

The Knowledge Original film tells the life story of Davidson, an artist who has travelled a path from cultural oppression to become one of the foremost modern artists and cultural activists on the continent. Robert’s call, through his work and his words, to revisit the wisdom of his 14,000 year-old culture is especially timely given the pandemic currently roiling the global community – a pandemic that by all accounts is very much related to our lack of respect for the natural world and its creatures. The creatures that populate Robert Davidson’s work.

Haida Modern won the Most Popular Canadian Documentary Award at the Vancouver International Film Festival last Fall, and the Best Canadian Feature at the Available Light Film Festival in the Yukon. The film was the Opening Film at the Kamloops Film Festival, the Closing Film at the Victoria Film Festival and won Best Canadian Film at the 2020 Festival International du Film sur l’Art.

Says Davidson, “How can we try to imagine a future?  Can we create an image to start changing the direction?”

Haida Modern features intimate observations from the warmly engaging, insightful artist himself.  The film includes fellow artists, art historians, politicians, rock stars and family members who describe the impact of Robert’s work, beginning with the carving of his first totem pole in 1969, the first one raised in Haida Gwaii in 100 years.  It reveals how this gesture is widely credited with sparking the revival of coastal Indigenous culture.  And we see how the art that Robert Davidson and now others are creating is having a deep and lasting impact around the world.

In Haida Modern we see people from Alaska to Texas, and from Vancouver to New York displaying Robert’s art in galleries, on their backs, their homes, their bodies.  We see how non-indigenous Canadians are flocking to political rallies led by Indigenous leaders and activists.  Singing traditional songs, cheering the speeches given in revived indigenous languages, celebrating with traditional foods, and following Indigenous leadership in fighting for environmental sanity.  This respectful cooperation between cultures has been central to Robert Davidson’s work.

For Robert’s key message is one of unity.  His art, words and actions underscore a deep commitment to the idea that we are all one people, that we must stand together to face the coming challenges.  Again, a message that resonates deeply in the uncertain future we all face in the coming days. This shines through works of an art so beautiful it must be seen over and again.  And as Robert Davidson himself makes clear, this is a beacon that could help guide us all through increasingly stormy seas.

Haida Modern is directed by Charles Wilkinson (Haida Gwaii: On the Edge of the World, Vancouver: No Fixed Address), produced by Wilkinson and Tina Schliessler of Shore Films; and executive produced by Kevin Eastwood of Optic Nerve Films. The film is produced in association with Knowledge Network, the Canada Media Fund and with the participation of the Rogers Documentary Fund.

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About The Author

MUSKRAT Magazine

MUSKRAT is an on-line Indigenous arts, culture magazine that honours the connection between humans and our traditional ecological knowledge by exhibiting original works and critical commentary. MUSKRAT embraces both rural and urban settings and uses media arts, the Internet, and wireless technology to investigate and disseminate traditional knowledges in ways that inspire their reclamation.

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