Sam Karney left his small western Manitoba town to pursue an education and career in the city. Little did he know the road would one day circle back, return him to his rural roots, and reveal the secrets of one of Canada’s oldest professions.
A Life on the Line is the story of a young man returning to the fur-trapping life he turned his back on. The one-hour documentary premieres on APTN this month:
- January 19 @ 5:00pm Eastern (rebroadcast)
Watch the trailer here: www.alifeontheline.com
ABOUT THE IDEA
Even though Canada today has largely forgotten about the fur trade, there are still men and women dedicated to preserving this way of life, and passing it down to the next generation. A Life on the Line explores this important part of Canadian history, set against the stunning backdrop of Manitoba’s rugged boreal forest.
“For as long as I can remember, fur trapping has been in my life,” says Karney, a Métis filmmaker from Roblin, Manitoba, who is making his feature documentary debut with A Life on the Line.
“My dad Chuck started working on a trapline when I was very young, so to me, the sights and smells became everyday things. But as I got older and moved away for school and work, the trapline got further and further away.”
“A few years ago, through my work at a TV station, I was given the opportunity to produce short documentaries. I pitched the idea of spending a weekend on my dad’s trapline, documenting the activities, and exploring the challenges in a modernized world. After that, I began thinking there was something bigger here.”
And he was right. What turned out to be ‘something bigger’ was the story of Sam returning to his roots, and reconnecting with his father. The idea eventually turned into A Life on the Line, Sam’s first full-length documentary as a filmmaker, and the first time turning the camera on himself.
“Never have I had any desire to be in front of the camera, but with my father as the subject, I figured the best way to give this film the life it deserved was to immerse myself fully and actually learn what it takes to maintain the line. Needless to say, it was not easy.”
ABOUT THE STORY
Chuck Karney is a fur trapper with over 20 years of experience. Though not Indigenous himself, he married a Métis woman and spent the better part of his life living a traditional “on the land” existence.
Growing up, Chuck’s son Sam had little interest in trapping. In fact, like many typical teens, he had little interest in most things his father tried to teach him. So he left behind his rural home to seek an education and career. After a decade of living in cities, Sam felt compelled to return to the wilderness. In particular, he felt drawn to his father’s trapline.
Throughout the 2016-2017 trapping season, Sam spent time with Chuck, learning what it takes to run a trapline. From bone chilling cold to the gruesome realities of the job, Sam went hands on – and all in – every step of the way. For the successes, and failures.
“No matter how macho you think you are living in the city, there are things that happen on the trapline that make even the strongest men wilt,” says Sam.
Often humorous and occasionally heartwarming, A Life on the Line shows a father’s desire to teach his son a dying way of life, and passing on traditional knowledge that would otherwise be lost. The documentary also takes a look at Sam’s Métis roots, on his mother’s side.
“It’s kind of funny actually,” says Sam. “Here’s my dad, a full-fledged Ukrainian, living a traditional Métis lifestyle. It’s quite something.”
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
A Life on the Line is co-produced by Winnipeg-based production companies Ice River Films (www.iceriverfilms.com) and Wookey Films (www.wookeyfilms.com). It is directed by Sam Karney, produced by Andrew Wiens and Jérémie Wookey, and executive produced by Janelle Wookey, with Rudy Gauer as director of photography.
The documentary has been produced with support from APTN, Canada Media Fund, Manitoba Film & Music, and the Canadian Film or Video Tax Credit Program.
CONTACT FOR MEDIA:
RoseAnna Schick, RAS Creative
Publicist for A Life on the Line