We Make Stories Out of Totem Poles

This is a short film about my friend and honorary brother, Kwakwaka’wakw carver Charles Joseph, who carves his dreams (and sometimes his nightmares) into cedar.

Charles survived a particularly brutal residential school in Canada and, years later, is still repairing the damage that caused to him. His greatest carving, a 53 foot totem pole that now sits in front of the Montreal Museum of Fine Art (see http://bit.ly/2IqLnU7), is part of the process of that repair, aided by his engagement in the unique, beautiful and profound art of his tradition.

A few years ago, Charles helped me design a new third floor for my house in Toronto. We installed a number of custom totem poles and carvings on that floor, which was also a modernized version of a Kwakwaka’wakw communal big house. I used barn wood from my great-grandfather’s original barn from the original Peterson homestead in Saskatchewan for the walls. It’s a unique space (which I have been away from so much, given all my traveling in the last year) and it was a very engaging joint project. I learned a lot from the entire experience (which included a potlatch in Port Hardy, in the northern part of Vancouver Island).

I am happy to report that most of the terrible dreams and memories that have plagued Charles for so many years have disappeared.

Director Patricia Marcoccia’s Toronto-based production company Holding Space Films is currently producing a feature-length documentary film that follows our friendship.

More on Charles: http://charlesjoseph.ca/
More on Holding Space Films: https://www.holdingspacefilms.com/

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