In 1989, Québec Premier Robert Bourassa negotiated a seventeen-billion-dollar contract for Hydro-Québec to sell power to New York State. The first phase of the James Bay Project, initiated by Hydro-Québec in the seventies, had caused environmental havoc and destroyed traditional native lands. Determined not to let it happen again, the Cree of Great Whale, led by Grand Chief Matthew Coon-Come, opposed the megaproject. <i>Power</i>, Magnus Isacsson’s forceful documentary about this struggle, is precisely about power and its many forms: hydro power, the abuse of power by a large corporation, and, ultimately, the power of people to change the course of history and their lives.
The filmmakers are present from the beginning of the battle as the Cree, aided by their Inuit neighbors, build an odeyak, a unique combination of canoe and kayak. To raise awareness of their plight, they undertake a fifteen hundred-kilometer journey from the frozen sub-Arctic to New York City for the 1990 Earth Day celebration. <i>Power</i> depicts the Cree’s extraordinary five-year struggle to stop the Great Whale Project. No less remarkable is Isacsson’s thoroughness and care in crafting this inspiring film. The camera is seemingly ever present: at demonstrations and speeches, and also at behind-the-scenes deal making and political maneuvering. Power also exposes the ugly racial side of the struggle.
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