After months of preparation, Tsilhqot’in filmmaker Trevor Mack’s groundbreaking film, In the Valley of the Wild Horses, has been released worldwide as of May 1.
The 24 minutes long film chronicles the traditional Xeni Gwet’in youth wagon trip from Nemiah Valley to the Williams Lake Stampede. Premiering at the Vancouver International Film Festival in the fall of last year, many people in the lakecity got a chance to view it early at a series of screenings shown in and around the Cariboo.
Now though, the film Mack made with co-director Asia Youngman is available for anyone to see and buy, which is a cathartic feeling according to Mack.
”In the Valley of the Wild Horses, I think, is an inspirational, defiant spectacle of a film that showcases the Xeni Gwet’in youth wagon trip’s tenth year anniversary,” Mack said.
The trip, Mack said, is an example of a land-based healing project first initiated by Xeni Gwet’in Chief Jimmy Lulua that had created a new path towards health and wellness in his community. When he was offered the opportunity to come along and document the trip, Mack said he leapt at the chance.
Over the course of eight days, Mack and Youngman travelled with the wagon train on their journey, often rushing ahead to set up shots they only had one chance to get. For some of the incredible drone footage Youngman took, Mack said, the mosquitos were so bad he to constantly smack them off her as she operated the device.
“It just shows these badass Indigenous Youth being healthy, being out on the land, taking in old cultural traditions and leading the way, I think, in how to live a healthy life as Indigenous people in the Chilcotin,” Mack said. “That aura of potential that was in the air was an incredible feeling and I hope the documentary shows that.”
For Mack, the most impactful moment of the film comes at the end as the wagon train rides in the Williams Lake Stampede Grounds. The excitement on the faces of the youth, the roar of the crowd and the whole feeling makes him, to this day, stand up whenever he sees the sequence, filled with an indescribable emotion.
Despite it premiering at VIFF and already being shown around the world, for Mack, the screening of the film he has been most proud of are the ones he has done in school and communities across Tsilhqot’in Nation. The entire project, for him, was connecting with the youth and the more who can watch it and learn its message, the better.
“I think the climate crisis we’re seeing now, all over the world, is a product of that sustained disruption from the land that occurred with Indigenous peoples. I think the more non-Indigenous people that are able to take part in a land-based healing program (should) the most important thing is our connection to the land,” Mack said. “It’s not just an Indigenous issue, it’s a worldwide planet-wide issue.”
Currently, In the Valley of the Wild Horses is available, in full, on Youtube and on the Telus Optik TV on demand network. Physical copies will be available for sale, though Mack said the details are still being decided and will be announced on the documentary’s Facebook page within the next few months.
Mack is moving from Vancouver back to the Cariboo Chilcotin this summer to film his first feature-length film Portraits From a Fire an introspective drama about a First Nations boy who discovers himself through viewing his parent’s old wedding tape.