Film: 9552

Social History | 1960 | Sound | Colour

Synopsis:

The Nahanni Valley in the Northwest Territories, Canada, lower than sea level and barren. Gold prospecting and an old prospector, Albert Faille, makes a long journey up the river every year.


A wide river flows over rocks, the water it grey blue with silt. Sheer cliffs line the river on one side, trees on the other, the water is calm after the rapids. The front of a skiff as it moves along the river towards a mountain. An aerial view of the river, a rocky mountain cliff plunges down on one side and trees grow right up to the other moving down to Virginia Falls and the rapids below, then the high mountain plateau on the far side of the river covered in trees. Another aerial view of the river, bordered by mountains which creates a narrow valley. A deep cleft in the mountains through which the Nahanni River flows towards the Liard and MacKenzie Rivers, it is bordered on both shores by sheer rock cliffs.

A small wooden house near Fort Simpson in the Northwest Territories, surrounded by brown grass and wood piles, shakes (wooden shingles) on the roof, a man with a rucksack ( Albert Faille) comes through the open door carrying a bucket, he puts it down on the door step and closes the door, he walks towards us along a path in the grass, Faille has a weathered face and wears a battered hat, and braces, there is another larger house beside the smaller one. The flat expanse of the wide MacKenzie River at sunset on a flood plain, the front of the boat is just visible in the growing darkness. Close up of Faille as he steers the boat through the water. The boat moves along the edge of the river, the old man in the stern of the river boat. The flat water at sunset. Faille sits in the stern of the boat steering the outboard motor and puffing on his pipe. The small waves of the river as the sun sets behind the mountain. The old man tends a fire on the shores of the river, a lean-to set up to sleep under.
Aerial view of the meeting of the Nahanni and Liard rivers. Nahanni Butte, where the river curves back on itself surrounded by the Funeral and Headless Mountain ranges, named so because of the men who died looking for gold. Albert Faille in the stern of his river boat steers the boat through the rapids between sheer cliffs, the boat loaded down with petrol for the engine, the stern goes up and down in the rough water. The bow of the boat as it moves up and down as it moves towards a cliff, water splashes over the bow. Close up of Faille's face. Water splashes over the bow of the boat. Faille steers the boat as he is thrown up and down in the stern. Quickly the bow of the ship as water comes over the side, then the bow with Faille steering determinedly through the white water. A large outcrop of rock in front of us. An aerial view of the outcrop, sticking up on the side of the river, the land around covered in forest. Faille looks around him. A huge cliff beside the Nahanni River, Deadman Sally where the McLeod brothers were found dead, with their skulls missing. The peaceful river at sunset. Faille sits beside the River at his campfire, he takes of his boots and crawls into his tent as the narrator talks of the men who also lots their heads or went missing in the area. The narrow gorge of the Lower Nahanni. The steep cliffs of the river gorge, the front of the boat as it makes its way up the river. Faille sits in the back of the boat, steering, he dips an old tin can over the side of the boat and scoops up some water, he drinks it, he tosses the water left over the side. From behind, Faille steers the boat up the river. From the shore, the steep cliffs on the far side of the Nahanni, on the other, trees come down to the shoreline. Faille looks around. The front of the boat bobs as the river gets rough. From the shore, Faille's boat barely holds its own against the river current. Faille sits in the stern as he steers the boat forward. The stern of the boat moves through the strong current. Close up of Faille. The boat moves through the rapids. Faille, his head out like a turtle, turns the boat hard. The river is calm again, though shear cliffs rise on either side of the river. Faille moves the boat up the river. The river vessel moves into the mouth of the gorge. From above, Faille and the boat move up the river. Virginia Falls, pours over the ledge with a pinnacle of rock sticking up and dividing the river, the water is pure white with froth and foam. From above the falls, the river disappears over the lip, and divides over the pinnacle of stone. The boat approaches the falls. Close up of Faille's face. The main part of the falls. Faille lifts something out of the boat. His legs heave as he rolls a barrel of petrol end over end up a rocky shore as he portages everything in the boat around the falls. He brings the keg of petrol to another group of belongings, of gas cans and clothes, he rests. Faille's feet as they walk the path over the falls, he is bent over with a sack of stuff. Faille walks towards us with the large rucksack on his back, he grasps small bushes and plants for support to haul himself upwards. He reaches the top, puts down his axe and takes the pack off his back, and stands up to look around. Faille moves towards us pulling a long piece of wood ( from the boat?). He drags the plank behind him up the steep narrow pathway. Faille's feet walk through the grassy, marshy landscape. He sits down on the rocky river's edge and puts the straps of a sack around his shoulders, the boat engine motor is in the sack, he struggles to stand up. He walks up the trail with the motor strapped to his back. Faille hauls himself up the pathway, he stops to rest. The high plateau over looking the river, the gas cans and the barrels are already there, Faille unstraps himself from the motor and puts it on the ground. Faille carries another load over the portage trail. He stops to rest at the top of the trail. Faille pulls another piece of timber from the boat and leans his shoulder forward to start moving. His feet squelch in the boggy mud of the trail. Faille walks up hill through the low underbrush. He walks tortuously up the hill, pulling on the timber. He arrives at the top of the hill, bent nearly double with the effort, he walks over to the fire where his billy tea can hangs over the heat, and pours himself a cup of tea, he sits down on one of the barrels. He drinks his tea. Faille, walks along the river shore smoking his pipe in a plaid jacket.

Then skeleton of a boat lies up side down on the ground, Faille chops at one end of the boat with his hatchet curving the wood down. His hand hold boards together as he hammers with the other arm. Faille's face as he works on his boat. His hand holds a chisel as his other hand hits the top of the chisel with a hammer, he moves it along the board. The flat river craft moves into the water. The front of the boat as it moves up stream, rope lies on the front seats. The boat sits low in the water, piled high with Faille's supplies, Faille's sounds for dept with a long stick as he moves along the river. A moose steps out of the water and into the trees. The river in front of the boat changes, the water becomes choppy. Faille sits hunched at the back of the boat, doggedly manoeuvring the craft up the river. The boat moves across the swift flowing river. Faille sits at the back of the boat and sounds for depth. The boat struggles against the current. Faille sits in the boat trying to find a channel. Faille turns the boat around in mid stream. The boat is beached and Faille props the motor up. He walks the boat up stream. Faille pulls the boat in water up to his knees. Faille hauls the boat over the rocks, struggling against the current. Faille stops to rest for a moment and then starts pulling on the boat again. Faille lets go of the boat but keeps a hold of the rope attached to it, he pulls the rope. He walks the boat along the shore to where everything is stacked, he rubs his hands on his trousers and then sits down on one of the metal barrels and takes out some chewing tobacco from his coat pocket. He puts it in his mouth and starts to chew. The boat turns downstream.


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