The award-winning animated short film Norma’s Story runs under only five minutes, yet the message transcends time.
Director Alex Hawley takes the audience into a whimsical world that is part mid-century children’s book styling and traditional beadwork.
Told through the eyes of Norma Kassi, a native Gwich’in from Yukon Territory, the film tells the tale of the dramatic environmental impacts of climate change that Northern people and wildlife experienced over the past thirty years.
The driving force behind Norma’s Story is educational and the film is accessible to schools through the NFB portal. It is the first film in the First Hand Climate Change series by brother and sister team Alex and Karen Hawley.
The Hawleys developed this spirited true story after hearing Norma Kassi speak at a lecture. Alex, who works in the animation world in Toronto, thought the format fit.
“We felt that animation could make strong visual statements that would enhance the dialogue,” he says. “We were especially interested in making a documentary accessible to children without varying from Norma’s original story.”
Norma’s Story questions the survival of the Gwich’in way of life due to precariousness of their food security, and cultural practices due to climate change.
Rising temperatures inimitable anywhere else on the planet, have greatly impacted the wildlife (specifically Porcupine caribou) sustaining the Gwich’in First Nation who live in the Yukon, NWT and Alaska. The caribou are central to Gwich’in culture and have coexisted with the Porcupine caribou herd for over 20,000 years.
“Tread Lightly” is the message put forth by narrator Norma Kassi who comes from the Yukon community of Old Crow (the only Yukon community that does not have road access). A prominent community leader, Kassi spearheaded the fight to stop oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and was formally elected Chief of the Vuntut Gwich’in First Nation.
“Climate change issues are relevant to everyone. It’s important to see that there are people being affected by it right now, not in some distant future,” says Hawley.
Hawley believes that Kassi’s message is an important one reminding those living south of the Arctic regions the interconnectedness of our world.
Norma’s Story is a wake up call and warning that the environment is changing, but that something can be done about it.
Norma’s Story plays at the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival on Sunday March 13th at 3 PM and is followed by the anti ivory poaching documentary When Giants Fall.
By Tanya Hill
Tanya Hill is a writer and editor for print, film and audio productions. She lives in Vancouver. and tweets as @CalderHill.