In April 2016, what started out as a camp for the spiritual resistance of a pipeline by an elder member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and her grandchildren ended up attracting thousands to the little known Standing Rock Indian Reservation of North Dakota.
Protests of the Dakota Access Pipeline made international headlines and Vancouver writer and director Trevor Carroll took notice.
“I felt like people were really not giving the indigenous people in Standing Rock a voice,” said Carroll as he was playing around with ideas for his new film.
“There were news people probably down there and it was a really huge issue, but I think because it wasn’t a group of white people at the front and centre of it, it wasn’t getting the type of news it deserved,” he said.
Then he asked himself, what if the moccasin was on the other foot? What if the roles were reversed? What if an oil pipeline was put through a suburban, white community in North Dakota instead of through indigenous burial grounds? What if First Nations people ran the big oil corporations?
No Reservations is the result of Carroll’s musings. A story about Peter and Marilyn Whiteman in the fictional town of Sitting Pebble who wake up one day to discover a company installing a pipeline underneath their house.
The short stars Lorne Cardinal, from the hit Canadian sitcom Corner Gas, as Joseph Stillwater, the man in charge of laying the pipeline.
Carroll wrote and directed the film that was entered into Crazy8s, an eight-day film-making challenge in Vancouver, where hundreds of teams apply but only six are chosen to receive $1,000 and a production package with everything they need to make a short film that had to be shot, edited and cut in eight days.
A house in Silver Valley was used as a backdrop for the satirical short described by Carroll as the perfect upper middle class neighbourhood you would find in North or South Dakota.
“Once I came up with the idea, it was a matter of thinking up the concept,” said Carroll.
“Would I do it in a very serious way, or a comedic way or something that has a little bit of both,” he added.
Carroll admits when he first started writing the script, he envisioned it as a comedy. But when they made the film, he said he played it pretty straight.
“I didn’t want to make fun of the topic. I wanted to give people a really good perspective on it,” explained Carroll, adding that there are still funny moments here and there.
Carroll’s main goal of the film is to start a conversation about the treatment of First Nations people.
“Originally, when I was doing it, I wanted people to understand how First Nations people felt,” said Carroll.
“Nobody wants a big huge pipeline going through their land,” he added.
“Once it is built, it’s only a matter of time before something happens,” he continued about the threat of possible leaks from the pipe itself or boats transporting the oil.
“Then it leaks all in their water and kills their ecosystem and that just destroys the people of the land,’ he said.
Carroll believes that corporations need to see the value in renewable resources before there will be change in the world. Until then, companies will be filling their pockets with money while First Nations people affected by the pipelines will see very little wealth, he said.
“They are never going to see the full amount of money that they deserve if they are going to give up part of their land for these things.”
So far, No Reservations is on track to wrap up the season having screened at 30 international film festivals, including in North Dakota, which is important to Carroll because it is where his film takes place and it’s a story about their people.
It will also be screened at the upcoming Maple Ridge Festival of B.C. Film.
The second annual festival rides on the tails of the highly successful inaugural event highlighting films created in the province.
This year, the festival will include four feature films, six shorts and one documentary.
No Reservations will be screened at 8 p.m. on Mar. 23, along with the feature film The Prodigal Dad, the story of a recently widowed man named George who arrives uninvited at his daughter’s shared college house.
Although his daughter is less than thrilled he has shown up, her roommates embrace him and he becomes the life of the party.
Tickets to the festival range from $10 for singles to $20 for the opening night, which includes a reception.
A festival pass is $50 and includes tickets to every film over the three-day event, plus the opening reception.
All films will be screened at the ACT Arts Centre, 11944 Haney Place in Maple Ridge.
• For more information about the festival go to theactmapleridge.org/FestivalofBCFilm or call 604-476-2787.