Watch ‘Now Is the Time’ on New York Op-Docs

Twenty-two-year-old Robert Davidson and his grandfather, Tsinii, discuss the raising of the first totem pole on Haida Gwaii in over a hundred years.
Photo: NFB

By Pat Mullen

Watch a highlight from the festival circuit now that Christopher Auchter’s Now Is the Time is available to stream at New York Times Op-Docs. The NFB film launched today as part of the streaming platform’s collection. Now Is the Time features extensive restoration, re-appraisal, and re-framing of images from the NFB archive featuring Haida carver Robert Davidson’s 1969 coup of erecting the first totem pole in his community in nearly a century.

Speaking with POV at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, Auchter shared his rewarding experience of diving into these images and bringing them into a new film told through a Haida lens. “For me and in my research,” said Auchter, “my conclusion pointed to that event as a pivotal moment for bringing back our artistic culture. The singing, the dancing, the weaving, the costumes —all different aspects of the ceremony. I wanted to place the audience in that day, August 22nd, 1969.” The film’s festival run includes stops at Sundance and Toronto’s imagineNATIVE.

Watch Now Is the Time below from New York Times Op-Docs.

Synopsis: When internationally renowned Haida carver Robert Davidson was only 22 years old, he was instrumental in changing the history of his people forever. With help from his grandparents, his father, and his younger brother Reg, Davidson committed to carving the first new totem pole in Old Massett in almost a century. On the 50th anniversary of the pole’s raising, Haida filmmaker Christopher Auchter steps easily through history to revisit that day in August 1969, when the entire village gathered to celebrate the event that would signal the rebirth of the Haida spirit. Resplendent with animation, emotional interviews, and original footage shot by what was then known as the NFB’s Indian Film Crew, Now Is the Time captures three generations of Eagle and Raven clan working together to raise the pole in the old way, inching it higher and higher, until it stands proud and strong against the clear blue sky.