VIFF Film Review: Jumbo Wild

Jumbo Wild (Qat’muk) had its premiere on October 8 at the Vancouver International Film Festival. The documentary explores an ideological battle, set amidst the beautiful wilderness of Eastern British Columbia. Director Nick Waggoner and Sweetgrass Productions depict diverse perspectives through an artistic mix of scenic landscapes, archival footage, and original interviews, all set to a beautiful soundtrack.

Jumbo Wild opened with a musical performance memorializing Jumbo Glacier, discussing climate change, and the risk of resort development. By the close, we find that environmental issues are important, varied, and in need of public attention.

Originally proposed over 20 years ago, the development of Jumbo Glacier Ski Resort, in the isolated Purcell Mountain range, remains a contentious issue. If the project receives government approval, Jumbo will become a year-round resort, and will have the largest vertical drop with natural snow in North America. The resort will allow visitors from around the world to enjoy spectacular views and perfect ski conditions, while also bringing in tourism revenue and employment opportunities for the region.

While some have their eye on the location for development, like Vancouver-based architect Oberto Oberti, who has a vision to construct a cathedral in the mountains. Others, like some scientists, conservationists, and backcountry skiers, want Jumbo to remain as it is. Some want it to be maintained as a sacred place, while some see its conservation as integral to the survival of B.C.’s Grizzly bear population. B.C. is already home to several ski resorts, including Whistler, a four-season resort located less than two hours from Vancouver -- is another really needed?

This story of land-use issue in B.C.’s Purcell Mountains is one that is all too familiar. Canada relies on natural resources for its economic strength and as Canadians, we are constantly faced with decisions about how to value and most appropriately use our land.  

The documentary did a fantastic job at summarizing the decades-long battle over Jumbo, while exploring various viewpoints in a genuine and thorough way. The focus of this documentary was not whether to build Jumbo Resort or not, but rather to explore the varied and sometimes irreconcilable perspectives on land-use in Canada.  

If you're interested in learning more about Jumbo, check out the petition to keep Jumbo wild.