Six weeks after her memorable appearance on the "Late Show with Stephen Colbert," Ellen Page and two of her closest friends, Ian Daniel
and Julia Anderson, with whom she made the television series »Gaycation«
, were on a plane headed for Nova Scotia to document cases of environmental racism. The result is a documentary called »There's Something in the Water«, which will have its world debut at the Toronto International Film Festival
on September 8. In addition, the 73 minute long feature will also be screened in the communities that it profiles and as part of the Atlantic International Film Festival
in Halifax on September 14. It's based on the 2018 book of the same name by Dalhousie University professor Ingrid Waldron
and brings attention to Indigenous and African Nova Scotian women fighting against environmental degradation in their communities.
In an article on Halifax Examiner
, Joan Baxter
, the author of "The Mill – Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest" recently revealed that "the strangest road" led to the film, once that began in late 2018, when Ellen's good friend Lil MacPherson, co-owner of the Wooden Monkey Restaurant
and now Green Party candidate for Dartmouth – Cole Harbour, gave her a copy of the book. Page just devoured it and was horrified to learn of the environmental racism that the people of Pictou Landing First Nation (PLFN)
have endured since the pulp mill on Abercrombie Point first opened in 1967, and began to spew its effluent into Boat Harbour
, once a precious tidal estuary they knew as "A’se’K" — "the other room." The effluent immediately poisoned the water and killed all the fish, creating a toxic lagoon adjacent to PLFN. The Canadian actress then set out to learn as much as she could about environmental racism in Nova Scotia. Her quest for information eventually led her to Waldron's book, which documented several egregious examples. In this way, she figured environmental racism is "essentially the disproportionate amount of landfills and industrial pollution sites next to Indigenous and Black communities,"
a pattern that is very clear, not just in Nova Scotia but in Canada as a whole.
From her home in New York, Page next spoke to the grassroots Mi’kmaw grandmothers who have been trying to protect the water of the Shubenacadie River from the Alton Gas project
, which aims to hollow out massive salt caverns about a kilometre underground for storing natural gas near the community of Stewiacke. After the conversation Ellen realized the plan looked like another case of environmental racism in the making and thus passed Waldron's book to her friend Ian Daniel. This, in turn, eventually led to the spontaneous filming in Nova Scotia as she recalls: "We talked about perhaps just coming up with cameras. We had no idea what this was really going to end up being, [whether] we were just going to make these little pieces and put them out online, or what. It just felt like these voices need to be amplified and as fast as possible. And that was that. We put the shoot together in about two weeks and then flew to Nova Scotia and hit the ground running. It was just myself, Ian, and Julia Anderson, who's a producer on the project."
Apart from the aforementioned situation in Stewiacke, the footage also profiles two further cases of environmental racism in Nova Scotia, with one taking place in Shelburne County, where Page's family comes from. For decades, people in the predominantly black community were exposed to pollution from a garbage dump that was put in their backyard in the 1940s. Although it has now been closed, it has left an extraordinary amount of toxins in the water and there have been tremendous consequences. Page and her crew also went to Pictou Landing First Nation, on the province's north shore, for a first-hand look at the notorious Boat Harbour lagoon. For 52 years, the local community has suffered from the stench of the Northern Pulp mill's emissions that the prevailing winds blow over the reserve, and from its effluent that has destroyed a once-beautiful beach on the Northumberland Strait, as well as Boat Harbour, rendering both no-go zones. Page herself described the area as "post-apocalyptic" and added that she gagged because it was one of the worst things she has ever smelled.
The team decided to submit the film to TIFF after they began the editing and realized that they had a feature-length film. Ellen remembers "it was an insane rush, but obviously [TIFF is] the dream place to premiere [the film]. It did feel like a long shot, but [the Toronto International Film Festival] is one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world, and more importantly than that, I just wanted that audience." Besides, Page believes the film will take Canadians on a journey that will "shock them" and feels fortunate that the festival's committee seemed to be moved by the film and invited them to screen it there.
When asked about what she hopes to accomplish with the documentary during the telephone interview
with Joan Baxter, Ellen replied: "I want these women to have justice. I want these women to be listened to. I want them to be celebrated … the fact that the degradation of our environment or the police presence outside of the Alton Gas gates is all normalized is so devastating. And the fact that these women, like the three grandmothers that were arrested, that they're being criminalized! So really to me, this film is … it's them. And in terms of how people respond, I hope they feel inspired by these women to go, “Shit, I have power, man. I can, and I'm going to use it. I'm going to use my privilege.” But mostly I just, I really want these women to receive the support or the respect that they deserve."
TIFF 2019 - »There's Something in the Water« - Screening Dates
|Sunday, September 8 - 05:45 PM||Elgin Theatre||»»»|
|Saturday, September 14 - 4:15 PM||Winter Garden Theatre||»»»|
|Sunday, September 15 - 3:30 PM||Scotiabank Theatre||»»»|