This feature-length documentary follows naturalist Bill Mason on his journey by canoe into the Ontario wilderness. The filmmaker and artist begins on Lake Superior, then explores winding and sometimes tortuous river waters to the meadowlands of the river's source. Along the way, Mason paints scenes that capture his attention and muses about his love of the canoe, his artwork and his own sense of the land.
Mason also uses the film as a commentary on the link between God and nature and the vast array of beautiful canvases God created for him to paint. Features breathtaking visuals and exciting whitewater footage, with a musical score by Bruce Cockburn.
For more background info on this film, visit the NFB.ca blog.
In Waterwalker Mason was aiming for a visual poem on his love of nature and canoeing. The NFB was interested in a documentary for television but Mason was against this, deciding instead to shoot more footage and bring the film up to feature length for theatrical distribution. Some of the money had to come from a co-producing agency, IMAGO films, because many at the Film Board didn’t feel the film had enough potential. Even when shooting was finished, Mason had a great deal of trouble convincing his producers that his film had enough structure to make it interesting. Mason re-worked the film and wrote a new narration to complement what he had tried to capture visually. Bruce Cockburn was interested in the project and signed on to write and record the musical score. The result is a haunting work that blends seamlessly with the strong visuals. The film can best be described as an ode to the majesty of nature (Lake Superior in particular) and an affirmation of Mason’s strong religious beliefs. Mason canoes throughout Lake Superior and stops occasionally to paint a spectacular waterfall or other scene, all the while talking about spirituality in nature and humans. Unfortunately at the time of Waterwalker’s completion, the NFB was still only interested in selling the film to television. Consequently Mason resigned and bought the distribution rights himself. After premiering it at the 1984 Montreal World Film Festival, Mason rented a movie theatre in Ottawa and released the film commercially. It had an extended run in Ottawa and became a local hit (6 weeks). The film would eventually play commercially across the country. The film was also a huge success on the home video market and on television. It remains to this day (in my opinion) his greatest film and continues to be one of the NFB’s biggest sellers on DVD.Albert Ohayon
From the playlist: Bill Mason: Beyond the wild, beyond the paddle
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Waterwalker, Bill Mason, provided by the National Film Board of Canada
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