Thursday, March 24, 2011

DVD Review: Jim Settee: The Way Home

Text and photos © Robert Barry Francos/FFanzeen, 2011
other images from the Internet

Jim Settee: The Way Home
Written, Produced and directed by Jeanne Corrigal
Inner Nature Productions
48 minutes, 2009

When examining a series of smaller communities in a somewhat remote area, one may be able to find a single person who can make a large difference and touch many lives. Such a man was the subject of this documentary, Jim Settee.

We are introduced to Settee indirectly at first, through the eyes of filmmaker Jeanne Corrigal, who I am happy to count among my acquaintances. She grew up at the Fish Lake Métis Settlement community in Central Saskatchewan in the Prince Albert area, which was created in the most part by Settee, technically a Métis, but self-identified as Cree.

During a dark period of Canadian / First Nations / Métis history, the federal government of Canada declared that those of mixed Aboriginal and white ancestry (Métis) were not permitted to live on the same reserves as “pure” First Nations, so Settee helped create the Fish Lake Settlement near the reserve where he was raised to help keep families at least close by.

This is just one legacy of a man whose presence reached through his command of oral history of the area, leadership, and tracking skills, just to name a couple of venues (which are lovely and fascinatingly described in this project). But due to his passing away before the film was finished, well into his 90s, much of his story is told by others. Fortunately, there is footage of him and lots of still pictures. Most of his life, however, is told in testimonials by those who loved him, including his immediate family who convey some touching tales, such as those involving tall towers and matchboxes.

[Filmmaker Jeanne Corrigal]

This film, however, is more than just about Jim Settee; its focus is, indeed, the way home for both Settee and filmmaker Corrigal. There is a parallel passage as both of them search for their own spiritual journey at different points in their lives. The two’s paths intersected at a time when Corrigal was feeling lost (in her words), and her reacquaintance with the elder Settee after he had found his own road helped her find hers. For Settee, it was being ordained in the Anglican Church at age 86 (this is not a spoiler, as this fact is stated on the film’s box). As for Corrigal, the way was in a totally different direction, as she now leads a Mindful Meditation group in Saskatoon (contact her at the email above for further information). How Settee’s Anglican background and Corrigal’s own passage were able to transcend each other to find a meeting place is a touching and central focus of the film.

Spirituality, in all forms rather than just Anglican, is key here, though that plays an important broken-rather-than-double line down the film’s center, permitting changing lanes for the viewers with which to identify.

When I saw this documentary, it was being sponsored by the University of Saskatchewan’s Aboriginal Student Centre and an on-campus multi-faith organization, represented at the screening by a Lutheran Reverend and a Conservative Rabbi, neither one of which embodied Settee’s Anglican leaning; however, there was a strong-yet-gentle spiritual guidance to the film, thanks to Corrigal’s tender touch and commentary (she appears in The Way Home as well).

There are many moments in the film that are moving, possibly transforming, for those who still feel lost, or perhaps needing reassurance. Thanks to Corrigal, Settee’s mentorship goes beyond his life, perhaps to the seventh generation.

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