Of the documentaries I’ve watched this year, Being Caribou has been the most enlightening, inspirational, informative and unsettling by a wide margin. The 2004 film chronicles the 5 month, 1500km self-propelled journey of a newly married couple (they couldn’t have come up with a more sublime honeymoon) following the endangered Porcupine caribou herd on their annual migration to their calving grounds on the shores of the Beaufort sea, an area with considerable oil drilling prospects, a pursuit which appears to be absolutely incompatible with the long-term survival of this extraordinary ecosystem, and the well-being of the Gwich’in First Peoples who depend on it for sustenance.
I’ve never met a book or film about the North that I haven’t liked, but this one in particular made so much click into place for me (and as a welcome side effect, refocused my attention away from an extended series of bitter arguments with no conceivable positive outcome, onto issues of incomparably larger magnitude). The challenge now is to figure out a life and career plan which will allow space for activism centered around problems (like those so well articulated in the film) that don’t fit within the tidy confines of the ivory tower.
But words don’t do it justice- and at 72 minutes, it’s a short watch and can be freely streamed, courtesy of the National Film Board. If you watch it, I’d love to hear your impressions.