The Yellowknife International Film Festival closes with two short films. These films couldn’t be more different form each other. The first is Daewit, a dark animated fable of self destruction and redemption. In strong contrast, Trapline is a beautiful documentary of a family connected by their trade in trapping.
An import from Germany, Daewit tells a morality fable of a man’s life. The film begins with the man as a baby living in the a shack with a loving mother and an alcoholic, abusive father. To save her baby from the abuse, the mother puts the baby in a basket and lets it wash into the sea, ala Moses. The baby gets taken in by a she wolf, who raises it as one of her own. And then he ends up in a mental institution. After that, the character takes many unexpected journeys before he is given a choice between revenge and forgiveness. To give you the full experience of the film, I won’t give away what happens to him after that.
The film’s animation takes on an abstract style resembling wootcut artwork. Like the film’s story, the animation combines abstract grittiness with whimsical fantasy. The grittiness portrays the old cabins and urban cities with a claustrophobic lived in feel. And the people are drawn with a world weary looks, right down to the wrinkles. In between, the film dwells into elements of spiritual enlightenment. When the mother prays for her baby washed at sea, the hand of god literally appears to pick the baby up and takes him to the wolves. There is also an appearance by an angel and the grim reaper.
From magical realism, we go to the real world with Trapline. The trapper is Bill Ambercrombie, the partriarch of Ambercrombie Homestead, a family business of trappers. With a slow moving camera, every shot of the family and the wilderness takes on a whimsical beauty. The true focus of the film is the philosophy Bill and his family finds in their work. “I feel more alive when I’m trapping,” says Bill “especially when I’m with my family.” It’s not just him. His sons Duncan and Malcolm considered the land your playground. Through Bill, his wife Laurie Stevens found a guy with the same dream. But in the end, the most fascinating quotes come from Bill. When he hunts, he considers an animal’s death by trap a gift because “it receives a dignified death which they don’t get in real life. They starve or they freeze or die in 6 months of disease.” Some people will have issues with this mindset, but it does give you an understanding of one trapper’s ideals.
These films are both examination into morality. One tells a tale of a man’s journey to finding a moral direction after having immoral acts done to him and his loved ones. The other demonstrates a family with morals that are different and yet the same as most audience members. Either way, they allowed the festival go out in a deep breath as the audience return to their daily lives, having gone through a variety of experiences into different worlds not unlike their own.