A Story of How an Indigenous Community Took Charge in Renewable Energy

Caption: As part of the 11th Kuala Lumpur Eco Film Festival, award-winning Canadian director Farhan Umedaly will be at the Festival telling the powerful story of how the Haida have taken back control of their sacred lands and become leaders in renewable energy with the unveiling of “The Sun on Top of the House”, BC’s largest community solar project.

In 2017, the Haida indigenous community in British Columbia, Canada, caught the attention of the media, when they became one of the first indigenous communities in the country to take renewable energy seriously.

The launch of the Haida Heritage Centre solar project on Haida Gwaii is the first of its kind where the Centre’s solar rooftop is now offsetting the building’s electricity use and has drastically reduced the community’s reliance on fossil fuels.

 “All projects in our Community are born out of our Comprehensive Community Plan, which is the guiding tool used from the input of Community Members,” says William Yovanovich, Chief Councillor, Skidegate Band Council. “Skidegate’s next major project is to install solar and battery packs to all 360 homes. Our goal is to lower hydro costs for everyone in Skidegate, as well as reduce our imprint on Mother Earth.”

The story of building the largest community-owned solar project in British Columbia was documented by award-winning film maker and director, Farhan Umedaly.

“The Sun on top of the House” is directed by award-winning Canadian director and film maker, Farhan Umedaly

“The outfitting of solar panels on Kay Llnagaay, The Haida Cultural Centre perfectly embodies the fusion of ancient tradition with state-of-the-art renewable technology,” says Farhan Umedaly, the film’s director. “It also exemplifies that the Haida are in charge of their destiny and are taking direct measures to move away from fossil fuels imposed on them through colonization.”

KLEFF caught up with Farhan recently in an interview where he shares his experience making the film, as well as inspirations behind the scenes.

KLEFF: Hello Farhan. You have previously won an award at KLEFF a couple of years ago. It was a documentary called “A LAST STAND FOR LELU” which documented the struggles of a Canadian indigenous community in protecting their ancestral land from the mega oil and gas project by Malaysian petroleum company, Petronas. What has the response from the community like after you won the award?

Farhan: One word can express what the community felt after the win at KLEFF: Hope. If they had a voice in Malaysia, the home of Petronas and the Malaysian people were behind them – well then they had winning chance to defeat the project and save their sacred ecosystem. Previously, the indigenous community protecting Lelu Island and the Skeena River had viewed Malaysia as their nemesis, but it all changed with having the film screened at KLEFF and winning the award. It was a friends in unexpected places kind of story and a reminder that good people are good people, we just need to stand together for what is right.

KLEFF: Can you share with us some of your most memorable experiences directing “The Sun on Top of the House?

Farhan: Some of my favourite moments filming The Sun on Top of the House was touring the islands of Haida Gwaii by boat alongside Trent Moreas a community leader. He took me to Gwaii Haanas a historic site that is littered with artefacts and ancient totem poles. Fishing for wild salmon with Arthur Pearson, an elder and traditional leader was also incredible. While drone filming some establishing shots on one of my first few hours in Haida Gwaii a Gray whale entered the frame totally by accident – that was a truly magical moment. It seemed to look onto the solar project site in admiration, or maybe it was saying thank you for making the step towards renewables?

KLEFF: For up and coming film makers that are hoping to make meaningful and award-winning stories, what are some of your advice for them?

Farhan: As a filmmaker you have unbelievable power to make positive change. It’s a tool to give voices to the voiceless, empower those who feel isolated, and reach across the table to those who we don’t see eye-to-eye with. My advice to them would be – go for it. If you see a story that needs to be told, charge up your batteries and take the plunge, apply to film festivals like KLEFF – all you need is one film award to be an ‘award-winning filmmaker’.

KLEFF: We are ecstatic that you will be coming back to visit KLEFF again this year. Apart from a discussion about your film with the audience, would Malaysia be expecting something new from you this time round? Do share.

Farhan: I’d love to share with KLEFF some of the new projects I’m working on. On September 28th I’ll be having my Hollywood debut for Best F®iends, a film I was a Producer, Director of Photography and Assistant Director. I’m also working on an international water documentary called “Brave Blue World” which is going to be shot in more than 8 different countries. I’m so thankful of the platform KLEFF has given me – it has truly shaped the filmmaker I am today and I am so thankful to be a contributing member of the KLEFF community today.

I will also be running a Filmmaker Masterclass sponsored by Panasonic Malaysia at KLEFF where I’ll be able to share how I develop, film and edit my productions for the big screen.

Visitors to this year’s 11th Kuala Lumpur Eco Film Festival (KLEFF) will get a chance to meet Farhan Umedaly and watch the screening of “The Sun on Top of the House” at the Black Blox Publika on SATURDAY, 27 OCT 2018 – SESSION 3 (6 PM – 8 PM). The public can also register for any of his two filmmaker masterclass (refer to flier below). Click on the on the flier to register for a seat for this workshop.

To find out more about the screening times and schedule of other films, click here: https://kleff.my/films/schedule/

Click to access the login or register cheese