Finding Farley

Lily Gontard

They’re at it again. The adventuring duo of Leanne Allison and Karsten Heuer, who brought the life of the Porcupine caribou herd to print and screen, push off by canoe from their home in Canmore, Alberta, to explore the great Canadian outdoors and its mythology in Finding Farley, their latest cinematic offering (produced by the National Film Board).

With tow-headed toddler and loyal dog along for some scene stealing, the family paddles, pulls, drives, rails, walks, sails and slogs around the country, all in response to an invitation from Farley Mowat. Allison and Heuer map a route all the way to the bearded one’s door using his books—all of which, apparently, they have read (and they have space in the canoe for at least half a dozen). I can say without any Christian guilt that I’ve never read a single book by Mowat, even though I’ve done my fair share of wilderness travel. Despite this, I’m aware of the controversy regarding the truthiness of his non-fiction. Allison and Heuer question his interpretation of the facts as they battle through the bush, but they find his descriptions of the landscape to be accurate enough.

Allison, the filmmaker of the pair, uses the gifts at her disposal—photogenic family, landscape and wildlife—to create sumptuous shots filled with rich colour and clarity that will make you long for that Canadian dream: travel in the wilderness. Resist. Pay close attention to how tough it is to tow a canoe upriver, for days, or to portage through thickets of bugs and muskeg. Allison and Heuer have about twenty years of wilderness travel between them: they are made of tougher stuff than the average MEC member. They share with Mowat a talent for adventure and storytelling, and with that comes a certain amount of exaggeration. But if the journey is enjoyable, does truth really matter?

(While brushing up on my Mowat trivia, I came across a reference to a short film, Farley Mowat Ate My Brother, by the writer-filmmaker Ken Hegan. Now that is a movie I want to see.)

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Lily Gontard

Lily Gontard is a writer whose fiction, poetry and non-fiction have appeared in magazines including The Puritan, Cirque and Event. She lives in Whitehorse.


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