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Survival Prayer2013

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  • 4.5
On a remote archipelago drifting off the northwestern edge of the North American continent known as Haida Gwaii (formerly referred to as the Queen Charlottes), an uncommon abundance of animal and vegetable life has sustained the Haida people for countless generations. Following individual food harvesters as they gather and prepare for the winter, SURVIVAL PRAYER celebrates the modern ways of a remote indigenous community and bears witness to a profound relationship between individuals and the land that sustains them. In the past century however, commercial logging, over-fishing, and invasive species have compromised the availability of traditionally harvested foods and threatened the long-term viability of these practices. Compounding this ecological damage is the imminent extinction of the Haida language and loss of traditional knowledge. With scenes that favor the authority of silent acts and a rich visual vocabulary, SURVIVAL PRAYER is an intimate ethnographic reflection that vividly illuminates the points at which nature and culture join to sustain human life.

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Member Reviews (4)

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top reviewer

First let me just state, with complete sincerity, This is an utterly amazing film. I saw it two years ago when it was released, and I have watched two more times now.

There is really nothing I know of that compares to it. Like most good films it exists on many different levels. The first, and most striking aspect is the true prayer; a meditation on the place and a way of life for the native people of the Queen Charlotte archipelago of the coast of British Columbia.

I suggest you put on headphones, set the monitor to the full screen, and when you see a image that appeals to you, pause and start taking full, deep breaths, just as you do to enter into a deep meditation. Do that for a few minutes, and then turn it to play. The original score is worthy of standing alone. It reminds me of the ethereal music of the Estonian composer, Arvo Part. You will feel yourself on the water, your feet wet in the sand. You are a shore bird running across the sand, taking flight. The low camera angles make the vistas endless—infinite.

Like a well written symphony, there are movements to this film. The long, opening movement sets the stage for the various themes that will be elaborated, and likewise the voices are introduced.

The second movement introduces us to “The Harvesters” and these are sweeping phrases, set at a Largo pace, with elegant images of the hands at work underlying plaintive story telling. The only part I did not like was the end of the second movement where a brief tangent of editorializing leads us out of the solitude of the shoreline into the cacophony of Seattle. This tired theme of blaming the “white man” is so old, so tired, that it has no place in a grace-filled prayer.

Thankfully, the third movement re-introduces the quiet expanse of tidal movement, and to ancient work of the clamming and purse-seine net fishing. We are reintroduced to the Harvesters in long phrases of music and light, and it is filling in every way.

First let me just state, with complete sincerity, This is an utterly amazing film. I saw it two years ago when it was released, and I have watched two more times now.

There is really nothing I know of that compares to it. Like most good films it exists on many different levels. The first, and most striking aspect is the true prayer; a meditation on the place and a way of life for the native people of the Queen Charlotte archipelago of the coast of British Columbia.

I suggest you put on headphones, set the monitor to the full screen, and when you see a image that appeals to you, pause and start taking full, deep breaths, just as you do to enter into a deep meditation. Do that for a few minutes, and then turn it to play. The original score is worthy of standing alone. It reminds me of the ethereal music of the Estonian composer, Arvo Part. You will feel yourself on the water, your feet wet in the sand. You are a shore bird running across the sand, taking flight. The low camera angles make the vistas endless—infinite.

Like a well written symphony, there are movements to this film. The long, opening movement sets the stage for the various themes that will be elaborated, and likewise the voices are introduced.

The second movement introduces us to “The Harvesters” and these are sweeping phrases, set at a Largo pace, with elegant images of the hands at work underlying plaintive story telling. The only part I did not like was the end of the second movement where a brief tangent of editorializing leads us out of the solitude of the shoreline into the cacophony of Seattle. This tired theme of blaming the “white man” is so old, so tired, that it has no place in a grace-filled prayer.

Thankfully, the third movement re-introduces the quiet expanse of tidal movement, and to ancient work of the clamming and purse-seine net fishing. We are reintroduced to the Harvesters in long phrases of music and light, and it is filling in every way.

If you immerse yourself into the stunning cinematography, the magnificent editing, and the efficient, monastic quality of the soundtrack , you will find yourself transported into another world and another era. It is a journey worth taking.

The Voice of God through all of this comes through the caw of the Raven, spoken in an archaic language that the singer herself has forgotten. There is some sadness, but mostly there is joy. There is survival and there is prayer.

Do yourself an incredible favor. Clear your self of clamor for a night, and calmly embark on a journey to a different world; a journey you will not soon forget.

This is a remarkable film, almost too good for five stars!

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top reviewer

Beautiful photography, stunning images, and a story of the people told by the people themselves. Highly recommended!

this was heaven.

This is a message that needs to be seen and heard. It is a beautiful film, with music that touches the soul and people, not actors, who tell the truth in the most simply wise words.