Edge Of The Knife


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Edge Of The Knife
"The visual changes to Adiits'ii subtle enough to be believable and effective, even on a restricted budget, and rest on an impressively physical performance from York." | Photo: Niijang Xyaalas Productions

Directors Gwaai Edenshaw and Helen Haig-Brown are aiming to do more than merely tell a diverting story with their fiction feature debut Edge Of The Knife (SGaawaay K'uuna), as they also intend it to serve as a document of the fast disappearing Haida language, from Canada, which is now spoken fluently by only about 20 people.

This fable about jealousy, guilt, the urge for revenge and redemption also draws on a myth of the Haida that sees a man transformed into a feral being - called the Gaagiixid. Beginning as a simple ethnographic story of families coming together during the summer to share fishing trips and stock up for winter, the film quickly establishes friction between Kwa (Willy Russ) and Adiits'ii (Tyler York), particularly as Kwa's son Gaas enjoys spending time with the less serious Adiits'ii.

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It comes no surprise when things take a tragic turn and Adiits'ii begins a transformation into the Gaagiixid as a result. There is no doubt that the budget is somewhat limiting here, with some of the early scenes, though interesting in terms of their documentary element, having a slightly 'made for schools' feel about them. But Jonathan Frantz brings plenty of handheld camera energy to segments marking out Adiits'ii's transformation into the man of the woods. This, coupled with strong sound design, lends the film a genuine tension in its middle section, with the visual changes to Adiits'ii subtle enough to be believable and effective, even on a restricted budget, and resting on an impressively physical performance from York.

As Haida is such a rare language, it's hard to know how well the lines are delivered here - but it does sometimes feel as though some members of the cast are struggling to wrap their mouths around the dialogue, perhaps because some of the early scenes are rather static. Although this provides contrast to Adiits'ii's roaming in the woods later, a bit more movement here would have helped the story to flow.

They say there is nothing new in the world and, like many stories based on myth, the arc here shares much in common with revenge and redemption stories from other cultures but it still bears hallmarks that make it unique.

Reviewed on: 07 May 2019
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When tragedy strikes in a small community, a man becomes a tormented soul in the woods.

Director: Gwaai Edenshaw, Helen Haig-Brown

Writer: Gwaai Edenshaw, Jaalen Edenshaw, Graham Richard, Leonie Sandercock

Starring: Curtis Brown, Diane Brown, Greg Brown, Toddi Lauren Brown, Delores Churchill, Zachary Collison, Russel Davis, Sam Derrick-York, Sherri Dick, Leo Gagnon, Merika Gladstone, Emma Grinder, Xiila Taayii Guujaaw, Sphenia Jones, Brandon Kallio

Year: 2018

Runtime: 100 minutes

Country: Canada


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