Edge Of The Knife

(SGaawaay K’uuna)

Winner ~ Best Canadian Feature ~ Vancouver International Film Festival

Edge Of The Knife, co-directed by Gwaai Edenshaw and Helen Haig-Brown, is the first feature film spoken only in dialects of the Haida language. Set in a 19th-century Haida Gwaii community, it tells the classic Haida story of the traumatized and stranded man transformed to Gaagiixiid, the wildman.

Poster for the Haida Gwaii film Edge Of The KnifeIn a narrative with parallels to Crime And Punishment, the death of a child drives our implicated protagonist, Adiits’ii, into torment and grief, and he flees into the unforgiving wilderness. We follow his descent into madness as he is, in a sense, ‘swallowed whole’ by the wilderness that soon becomes his own hell.

The dramatic coastal landscape sits on what seems like the edge of the Earth. Vast temperate rainforest and rugged, inhospitable shoreline epitomize the brutal and violent forces of nature and guilt that possess the protagonist, transforming him into a feral pariah. By the time Adiits’ii returns to his community, every inch of his body is etched by dirt and blood trails. Urchin needles are protruding from his lips. The wilderness has turned the initially charming nobleman into a beast.

Edge Of The Knife is an Indigenous film with an Indigenous cast and crew. It masterfully portrays tradition and lore that remains culturally and historically relevant to First Nations peoples in Canada. The fundamental clash between man and nature are omnipresent, themes of the turmoil of grief and one’s delivery from it are central. In this film, we are offered a dark and unnerving chronicle, where Indigeneity is not offered as a prop, trope or sideshow. Indigeneity is the main act.

– Isabelle Kirkwood, Canculturemag

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