Grey Owl

DirectorRichard Attenborough
StarringPierce Brosnan
Annie Galipeau
Renee Asherson
Running Time113 mins

This is a film based on a true story. Set in 1930s Canada, it tells the story of a Native-Canadian trapper and guide named 'Grey Owl'. He tries to live the life of a traditional Native-Canadian with all of its difficulties and contradictions - especially during the depression years. Indeed, this is one of the three main themes running through the film, namely how traditional peoples reacted to the modern world. On the one hand, they aspired to living their traditional life. However, the realities of the market place, deculturisation and outright racism all conspired to make this a difficult prospect. The result was that some native peoples tried to acculturate to the dominant culture, many were pushed to the margins whereas those who tried to cling to the traditional way of life found it harder and harder to survive - and this is where 'Grey Owl' comes in. He wants to live the life of a traditional Native Canadian, but finds it economically and increasingly environmentally difficult. More and more trappers are depleting the stock of wildlife, which actually leads to increasingly harmful ways of killing these animals. This leads to the second theme of the film: environmentalism.

Grey Owl was one of the first proto-types of the environmental campaigner - decades before it was fashionable to be so. The poacher turned gamekeeper realises the danger and strains facing his wilderness - with the help of a woman of course. But what makes this Native-Canadian different is his erudite nature. The fact that he can communicate the beauty yet fragile nature of the wildnerness he cherishes. His articles lead to books, his books to lecture tours. He has a message that appeals to those who wish to protect the wilderness. In fact, it appeals to those who have never laid eyes on the environment he is trying to protect. People are fascinated by the storyteller and his story. It is compelling and although many thousands of miles away, seems pertinent and relevant to all of humanity. However, the storyteller is not all that he seems to be. Which takes us to the third theme of the film - but one that you may wish to discover for yourself.

The film conveys some truly stunning scenery, the cinematography is outstanding. The story is a fascinating one, although of course, it is a little difficult to see Pierce Brosnan as anything other than James Bond. He does try hard to work himself into the character, but he is just too famous to really pull it off. Although I did find the last ten to fifteen minutes unfolded into a genuinely interesting and inspiring conclusion. It also illustrated the opportunity, variety and scope available within the Empire as it was. For this story is truly an imperial story from start to finish.

The Frozen River Motherless Beavers
Grey Owl in England Dance

Buy this DVD at: Amazon

Armed Forces | Art and Culture | Articles | Biographies | Colonies | Discussion | Glossary | Home | Library | Links | Map Room | Sources and Media | Science and Technology | Search | Student Zone | Timelines | TV & Film | Wargames |

by Stephen Luscombe