Thus begins Jumbo Wild , a new, hour long documentary from Sweetgrass Productions. Produced in part with the help of outdoor clothing manufacturer Patagonia, the film drops us squarely into the middle of a battle between First Peoples, conservationists and locals in British Columbia who are resisting efforts for a new ski resort in the Jumbo Mountains and the developer who is pushing through the agenda.
On its surface, it is a very David vs Goliath encounter, with big money going up against big ideals. But make no mistake, though, as I looked around the screening area at the SoHo Patagonia store on a cold October evening and found myself surrounded by fleece wearing environmentalists chatting seriously and drinking local beer, this is not a film for the ‘fair and balanced’ crowd.
Nor should it be. The resort developers put up a fight, but the facts – as presented here, at least – give them no leg to stand on. Much like Keystone XL, they’ve exaggerated the numbers of long-term jobs the resort would create and all financial projections state that the town will see little of what meager profit there is. Oh, and then there’s the whole there are roughly six other resorts within five hours. Is that really what the world needs? Oberto Oberti, the man behind the vision of the Jumbo resort (located in the Kootenay Mountains in British Columbia) is a passionate figure, one not only with dream and the resources to make that dream a reality
Dreams, however, can die hard and for the last 24 years, he has been opposed every step of the way. You almost admire his persistence, even as you’re slightly turned off by his reasons for doing so, “Jumbo will be my cathedral.” (paraphrase) Jumbo Wild is a sumptuous and gorgeous looking film; the documentary as tone poem. While filled with facts, it always focuses more on the emotional struggles of its varied cast of characters, from local ski guides, politicians, a crusty old trapper, the developers (only one of whom becomes a true villain) and the First Nation people, who have lived in the Kootenay since the beginning of history. The theme is immediately recognizable: the philosophy of preservation – the long term – ramming headfirst against the agents of short term capitalism.
And it is beautiful . No amount of economic advantage – of which there is little – can move you like a single frame of the far-ranging mountains beneath a clear blue sky could. Gone are the days when documentaries consisted of grainy VHS footage; Jumbo Wild is all epic vistas and exquisite slow motion, the kind of cinematography one expects in a Terrence Malick film. Five minutes in, I realized that a store is not the right place for this film; I want to watch this in IMAX. I want to drink up the mountains and the forests, to have them wash over me and take me home. More than any of the human arguments against development, the images make the strongest case against hubris. Who, in their right mind, can gaze out into the quiet, rocky vastness and think ‘Yes, let us build here,’ is folly and the pinnacle of human hubris.
There is an axiom from one of the Native tribes here in the States, which states “ We do not inherit the land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children .” What Jumbo Wild wants us to consider is not ourselves and the momentary pleasure we receive from a weekend’s getaway to the lodge, but the future long beyond our own limits. Once something wild is lost, it can almost never be returned to its original state. In this case, one of the last remaining Grizzly bear corridors would be irrevocably shattered, disrupting the local and Canadian ecosystem even more. Not everything has to generate a profit (though natural areas provide their own economic benefit, just in unseen ways) and nature should be allowed to be, to simply exist as it always has.
There are resorts aplenty all over Canada and the northern US, but everyday there is less and less majesty in the world. When asked by our children, or when they’re asked by theirs ‘what happened to the wild spaces?’ do you, I, or your kids want to be the ones that say, ‘Sorry, but I needed the money, so the wild had to go.’ Jumbo Wild is on tour right now. You can find a date and location close to you on this list. You can pledge your support to the Keep Jumbo Wild campaign by signing the petition HERE.