1 FILM REVIEWS HAVE PROLIFERATED in recent years in a variety of academic journals and periodicals.1 The following review seeks to contribute to this burgeoning genre by examining the 2005 documentary film Life After Île Ste-Croix, produced by Ronald Rudin and directed by Leo Aristimuño.2 While Life After Île Ste-Croix has numerous cinematic and aesthetic qualities, this review will focus primarily on its scholarly and pedagogical merits. In so doing, it is hoped that this review will add another voice to the academic debate surrounding the utility of films as a medium for interpreting and conveying the past to scholars and general audiences alike.
2 Life After Île Ste-Croix examines the politics of coordinating the 400th anniversary of French settlement in North America. On 26 June 1604, an expedition led by Pierre Du Gua, Sieur de Monts, and his cartographer, Samuel de Champlain, settled on Muttoneguis Island (renamed Île Ste-Croix by de Monts), located at the mouth of the Ste-Croix River between present-day New Brunswick and Maine.3 Due to a harsh winter, they subsequently moved across the Bay of Fundy to Port Royal in the summer of 1605. Of the 79 men who wintered on Île Ste-Croix, 35 died of scurvy and 20 others became seriously ill.4 Despite the abbreviated sojourn on Île Ste-Croix, and France's tentative hold on Acadia thereafter,5 organizers of the 2004 commemoration seized upon the event as a symbol of multiple precedents: the birth of Acadia and the French presence in North America, the roots of French and Aboriginal contact, and even the stirrings of an eventual "Canadian" nation. During the event, "stories were told to the public that had more to do with the present than with the past".6 As such, the film tells us more about the politics of 2004 than it does about the events of 1604.
3 While Life After Île Ste-Croix stands alone as art, the film requires more contextualization for the viewer to fully appreciate its contributions to historical scholarship and pedagogy. For example, it is helpful to place the film in the historiographical context of historian Ronald Rudin's other works. Rudin has published five books and numerous articles on various aspects of Quebec history.7 According to Rudin, after examining "how historians communicated the past" in his Making History in Twentieth Century Quebec, he turned to commemorations as "more accessible ways of learning about the past".8 He subsequently published Founding Fathers, an examination of the public feting of Champlain and Bishop Laval in the streets of Quebec at the turn of the 20th century as well as an article in Acadiensis on the celebration of the Champlain-De Monts tercentenary in the Maritimes and Maine in 1904. These texts are useful complements to a class discussion of the film. Life After Île Ste-Croix is an extension of Rudin's interests and part of a larger Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council-funded project – "Constructing the 400th Anniversary of European Settlement in Canada".9
4 Aside from the obvious benefit of reaching a larger audience through film, one wonders whether Rudin's film tells a qualitatively "different story" than his previous written works.10 His approach to Life After Île Ste-Croix resembles his other scholarship by examining, as he states in Founding Fathers, the "complicated process of staging spectacles". Like the spectacles at the turn of the 20th century, the 2004 celebrations were the "product of intense and often messy negotiations among groups that did not necessarily see eye-to-eye about either the form of the celebrations or the messages to be conveyed thereby". In all fairness, he does admit that his focus on celebration organizers "tell[s] us very little about what the public actually drew from these events".11 Nonetheless, this approach has led to some well-deserved criticism. Indeed, Lawrence E. Ziewacz has labeled Rudin's work "traditional history told from the upper class point of view" in which "no attempt is made to measure precisely the ordinary citizens' response to or long-range impact of these celebrations".12 Admittedly, it is difficult to hear the voices of "ordinary citizens" in the earlier festivities, but surely this is not so in terms of the 2004 commemoration. This is an area where Rudin could have enriched his analysis by interviewing not only leaders and organizers, but also spectators, thereby addressing the often contentious issue of how an audience – in this case the commemoration's viewers – responds to a staged event or celebration.13
5 By focusing on various interest groups involved in the planning of the 2004 festivities, however, the film does provide "multiple perspectives on the past . . . the present and [the] future"14 – unlike the dominance of British interests during the 1904 celebrations. As Robert A. Rosenstone has pointed out, the best films "present the possibility of more than one interpretation of events; they render the world as multiple, complex, and indeterminate, rather than as a series of self-enclosed, neat, linear stories".15 These "multiple perspectives" can perhaps be most fully appreciated by comparing and contrasting the participants of 2004 with those involved in earlier festivities, such as the 1904 tercentenary. The most obvious difference between 1904 and 2004, for instance, is the more central role played in the latter by the Acadians and Aboriginal peoples in the planning and performance of the festivities. The 1904 festivities focused largely on de Monts as leader of the expedition to the Maritimes rather than on his lieutenant Samuel de Champlain. As Rudin suggests, English Protestant organizers no doubt championed de Monts because he was a French Huguenot whereas Champlain was a French Catholic. Even in Saint John, there was a "certain reticence to celebrate Champlain too warmly" even though he had been responsible for naming the St. John River (and thus Saint John itself). Moreover, the Saint John celebrations clearly subsumed Champlain in a tribute to British imperialism as, after a re-enactment of the arrival of Champlain, the landing party then proceeded to the city's Boer War monument. This focus on British achievements and concerns contrasted sharply with the "rather marginal part" played by Acadians in 1904.16 No Acadian spoke at all during the festivities in Annapolis Royal,17 and only after federal intervention did Acadian representatives Judge Landry and Remi Benoit speak at the literary evening in Saint John (to "earnest applause").18 There were two French-Canadians on the programme in Annapolis Royal, but they left before the festivities moved to Saint John.19 Non-francophones continued to play a central role in the 2004 celebrations as anglophone residents of St. Andrews and the surrounding area coordinated most of the festivities. In this sense, anglophones saw the tourism potential of the commemoration. In Part II of the film, "Who Remembers. . . And Why?", Norma Stewart, executive director of the coordinating committee, maintained, in an ironic twist of the right-by-occupation argument, "Those of us who are here, we are the stewards".
6 For the most part, however, the 2004 celebrations marked the rejection of anglophone dominance in favour of giving voice to "multiple perspectives", and Life After Île Ste-Croix captures that reality quite nicely. For their part, the Acadians of New Brunswick viewed 2004 as a "specifically Acadian celebration"; in the film, Maurice Basque, director of the Centre d'études acadiennes at the Université de Moncton, argues that 1604 was "the beginning. From that year on, Acadie begins to tell its history". The film also demonstrates how Acadian leaders and performers were heavily involved in all aspects of the 2004 celebration, from the inauguration ceremony on 25 June to the official federally sponsored programme on the main stage the following day.20 Besides Basque, the film includes interviews with the former president of the Société Nationale, Euclide Chiasson, as well as Chantal Abord-Hugon, coordinator of the 400th anniversary of Acadie celebrations, which were sponsored by Société Nationale de l'Acadie. These Acadian leaders expressed the hope that this commemoration would afford anglophones the opportunity to "discover the rich French history of the area". According to Chantal Abord-Hugon, the celebrations were "a unifying event in many regions". This sentiment was muted, however, by an undercurrent of mutual frustration expressed by the anglophone and francophone participants and commentators. Basque wondered why anglophones were suddenly interested in Acadian history "when there's rarely been a collective recognition that we're your neighbours". He bitterly confided that "no one is rushing to commemorate 2005", the 250th anniversary of Le Grande Derangement. Anglophones were similarly frustrated with the Acadians' adoption of the commemoration as theirs.
7 There were also international dimensions to the "multiple perspectives" of the 2004 commemoration, as the Ste-Croix Coordinating Committee was comprised of organizers from both Maine and New Brunswick. Maria Kulcher, the Canadian secretary of the coordinating committee, explained in the film that "we're the lower Ste-Croix River Valley. We're a community on two sides of a river and two sides of a border. And there are incredible differences, but the commonalities are legion". In her eyes, the 2004 commemoration helped to "build community" on both sides of the border and highlight the commonalities between Canadians and Americans. As Kulcher put it, the celebration was the "beginning of something greater and grander than just being Acadia" [emphasis added]. Although her family had roots in "middle" Europe, Ste-Croix was still "her island". For her, the 2004 commemoration should mark the birth of a more inclusive Canada. Still, linguistic tensions were never far from the surface. Stewart, the executive director of the coordinating committee, noted that because St. Andrews was an anglophone community, they initially found themselves "banging [their] heads up against a bureaucratic wall of the Francophones" and had a great deal of difficulty soliciting money and support.
8 Another major difference between 1904 and 2004 was the substantial official support that the festivities received from various levels of government. In 1904, Canadian and British officials were "conspicuous by their absence". Although invited, Prime Minister Laurier and Governor General Minto did not attend.21 The situation was much different in 2004. Perhaps this symbolizes the state's belated recognition of the multi-narratives that comprise Canadian history as well as the political capital that could be gained by promoting the history of "the other". In any case, the federal government sponsored the official ceremonies on 26 June and arranged for a number of dignitaries to be present, including Prime Minister Paul Martin, Minister of Canadian Heritage Hélène Chalifour Scherrer, Premier Bernard Lord of New Brunswick and American Ambassador to Canada Paul Celluci.
9 Without a doubt, though, the Passamaquoddy are the most engaging and riveting part of Life After Île Ste-Croix and the portions of the film that focus on the Passamaquoddy are ideal for stimulating classroom discussion on the history and current status of Aboriginal peoples in the Maritimes. In 1904, Aboriginal peoples were not involved in the festivities. Instead, members of the Neptune Rowing Club and the Royal Kennebecasis Yacht Club dressed up as Natives for the re-enactment of Champlain's landfall in Saint John.22 In 2004, the Passamaquoddy in New Brunswick and Maine viewed the event not as a "celebration", but rather as "a chance for us to educate [and] a chance for us to remember". In this vein, Historic Preservation Officer of the Passamaquoddy Nation (Maine) Donald Soctomah recounts the Passamaquoddy version of the contact experience of 1604, which "set the tone" for a friendly contact relationship with the French in North America. In Part III of the film entitled "Remembering the Passamaquoddy in Canada", we witness a sunrise ceremony at Indian Point on 26 June, organized by the Passamaquoddy. It was decided by the coordinating committee that since the Passamaquoddy were the "first on the land" that they should be the "first to start the day". On the main stage later that day, there was a gift-giving ceremony by the Passamaquoddy as well as drumming and dancing and a moving speech by Chief Hugh Akagi in ceremonial head-dress. In an apparent effort to inject some subversive fun into the event, Passamaquoddy performer Blanche Sockabasin, while performing the "Welcome Song", kidded the dignitaries in attendance by suggesting "you guys are supposed to dance".23
10 Interspersed throughout the film are interviews with prominent Passamaquoddy leaders – such as Donald Soctomah as well as Hugh Akagi and Rita Fraser (both of the Schoodic Band upon whose traditional lands stands the town of St. Andrews) – all of whom effectively articulate the grievances of the Passamaquoddy in New Brunswick. The lack of national recognition accorded to the Passamaquoddy currently living in New Brunswick is a central focus of the film, which encourages the viewer to learn more about their situation. Their plight can be attributed primarily to two factors: dispossession and the Canadian-American border. The Passamaquoddy refer to the St. Andrews area as Qonasqamkuk: it was a site of general council meetings, a place of worship, a sacred burial ground and an important territory for traditional subsistence practices.24 In the 1780s, Loyalists arrived in Qonasqamkuk and "succeeded in dispossessing the Passamaquoddy", motivated by the Lockean conception of land "as something which needed to be cultivated in order to be possessed". In 1785, the Passamaquoddy were forced from their lands into "Indian encampments" located at present-day Indian Point and the town of St. Andrews was founded. Between 1783-1810, the New Brunswick government granted "licenses of occupation" to the Passamaquoddy and other Aboriginal peoples living in New Brunswick, but the original 100,000 acres included in the licenses, approximately one half of one percent of the land mass of New Brunswick, was reduced to 61,000 acres by the time that the first survey of reserve lands was undertaken in 1838. Systematically dispossessed of land and resources by immigrants/squatters and local governments, Aboriginal peoples became increasingly destitute and appealed on numerous occasions to the government for land and relief. In the case of the Passamaquoddy even land that had been set aside for them, such as the Canoose Reserve on the Ste-Croix River, was quickly exploited for its timber.25 In 1944, this land was transferred to the Crown.26
11 The issue of dispossession has been particularly acute in St. Andrews, where the town has, over the years, actively developed and leased approximately 100 acres of disputed land in Indian Point. In 1989 the town "brought Application to have its title to lands . . . judicially recognized, a process know as 'quieting of title'". The Passamaquoddy were able to "resist claims to a portion of the lands" at Indian Point by using the legal doctrine of "adverse possession", which holds that "open and notorious possession of lands for a certain period of time, prescribed by law, gives rights of ownership". However, because the case was not fought on the basis of Aboriginal title, the town took control of the remaining portion of the land.27 Since then, the Passamaquoddy have been engaged in a spirited campaign to resist the desecration of their burial grounds and other sacred sites and they continue to "seek the Return of Undeveloped Portions of Land Remaining at Indian Point and an Acknowledgement That our Rights to this Land Has Never Been Surrendered".28
12 The rights of the Passamaquoddy in New Brunswick have also been complicated by the Canadian-American border, which dissects their traditional territory. The Passamaquoddy are one of more than 30 tribes who are affected by the "medicine line" at the 49th parallel.29 These border peoples are denied the right "to move freely within their homelands", which means that they are separated from family and traditional resources. Moreover, the Passamaquoddy have particularly suffered from issues related to "tribal recognition".30 Most of the Passamaquoddy now live in Maine and thus have negotiated with the American governments for rights and title. The Schoodic Band is the only group of Passamaquoddy who still reside in Canada and they are not recognized by the Canadian state. In the film, Soctomah paints the Passamaquoddy in Canada as a "forgotten people". This lack of national recognition means that these Passamaquoddy are denied the rights available to most other Aboriginal peoples. In the film Rita Fraser notes that because the Passamaquoddy do not have fishing rights, they are robbed of a traditional food source as other Aboriginal peoples come into their territory to fish. For Akagi, this lack of rights and recognition is a "nice way of committing genocide".
13 While the interviews in Life After Île Ste-Croix effectively convey Passamaquoddy concerns about the lack of tribal recognition, the filmmakers neglected to tape a particular event that would have provided a more ceremonial expression of these concerns. After the sunrise ceremony on 26 June, rain canceled a re-enactment of the first meeting of Natives and French colonizers at Indian Point. Had the cameras been rolling, we would have witnessed a more impromptu program where Passamaquoddy participants "blend[ed] 17th century actions" with 21st century politics". Passamaquoddy elder Maynard Stanley began with some prepared comments about the first encounter in 1604, but then turned to a more informal discussion of the status of the Passamaquoddy in New Brunswick. He asked a Passamaquoddy audience member to join him on stage; she asked those present to sign a petition and wear a button that said "help our people".31 There were also flyers available that explained the grievances of the Passamaquoddy. Next were two performances by the Wabanaki Transformers' Theatre, an all-female group that had been founded about three years earlier at Pleasant Point in Maine. The leader, Vera Francis, narrated the first piece, where nine performers "assumed the roles of characters representing both ancestors and the environment". According to the Bangor Daily News, this performance was a "gentle reminder of the Passamaquoddy's links to the land and their people who lived long ago". The troupe then performed a play which illustrated the difficulties created by the Canada-United States border. The play ended when the troupe was prevented from entering Canada and turned back at the border. Four audience members were invited on stage to assist the troupe in a second performance that was intended to suggest ways that the border controversy could be resolved. As Francis stated at the time, "Getting turned back at the border for a number of reasons is not uncommon today for the Passamaquoddy".32 These performances reveal, as the DVD-ROM jacket of the film notes, how the Passamaquoddy "engage with their past in order to improve their lives in the present".33 This point is especially important to make to students in terms of historicizing the nature of Passamaquoddy society. As such, the performances would have been a welcome addition to Life After Île Ste-Croix.
14 Life After Île Ste-Croix provides useful insights into the politics of arranging an historical spectacle in 2004. To flesh out more fully the nature of "life after" 1604, the viewer is advised to place the film within a wider historical context. The end of the film flirts with the idea of "life after" 2004 by hinting at the longer-term impact of the commemoration. Stewart discusses the legacy project of 2004 (the recreation of an historical village) and is shown packing up the office in St. Andrews and driving away. Akagi seems ambivalent about the success of the Passamaquoddy's efforts to draw attention to their plight: he noted that people "haven't exactly been tripping over each other to come to . . . see us or meet us or to talk to us about anything, including our recognition". "On the other side of things", he admits, "they haven't exactly run away from me, which is something that happened before". Perhaps the filmmakers will eventually make a sequel: Life After Life After Île Ste-Croix. Then again, maybe the film is most valuable as a provocative and open-ended vehicle which encourages the viewer to engage in his or her own follow-up. As Alan Rosenthal put it, "Histories do not have to be definitive".34 But they should be intellectually stimulating, and this film certainly is.
University of New Brunswick Saint John
St. Thomas University
Notes1 For example, see David Frank, "One Hundred Years After: Film and History in Atlantic Canada”, Acadiensis, XXVI, 2 (Spring 1997), pp. 112-36; "Canadian History in Film?: A Roundtable Discussion”, Canadian Historical Review, 82, 2 (June 2001), pp. 331-46; Larry Hannant, "Film Review”, Canadian Historical Review, 78, 4 (December 1997), pp. 695-798; and Cathy L. James, "Women's History on Film: Requiem for Studio D”, Canadian Historical Review, 80, 1 (March 1999), pp. 93-6. There are also numerous film reviews in The Beaver. Useful for their thoughts on the collaboration of academic historians in public history projects, notably the CBC television series Canada: A People's History, are David Frank, "Public History and the People's History: A View from Atlantic Canada”, Acadiensis, XXXII, 2 (Spring 2003), pp. 120-33; Gene Allen, "The Professionals and the Public: Responses to Canada: A People's History”; Margaret Conrad, "My Canada Includes the Atlantic Provinces”, Histoire sociale/Social History, XXXIV, 68 (November 2001), pp. 381- 402; Craig Heron, "The Labour Historian and Public History”, Labour/Le Travail, 45 (Spring 2000), pp. 171-97; and Ken Cruikshank and Nancy B. Bouchier, " The pictures are great but the text is a bit of a downer . . .': Ways of Seeing and the Challenge of Exhibiting Critical History”, Canadian Historical Review, 80, 1 (March 1999), pp. 96-113.