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Legend of ‘Tzouhalem’ comes to the big screen

Cowichan Tribes’s Harold Joe co-directs documentary
Fresh off a premiere at the Whistler Film Festival, Tzouhalem the untold story of the legendary warrior, will be made available for viewing in the Cowichan Valley come March. Harold Joe co-directs Tzouhalem with Leslie D. Bland. (Courtesy of Route 504 PR)

Fresh off a premiere at the Whistler Film Festival, Tzouhalem the untold story of the legendary warrior, will be made available for viewing in the Cowichan Valley come March.

The film is produced by Orca Cove Media, a production company that focuses on First Nations and Indigenous authentic content, and is co-directed by Harold Joe and Leslie D. Bland.

A member of Cowichan Tribes, Joe grew up hearing the oral legends of the fiercest warrior to ever wage battle in the Pacific Northwest.

SEE RELATED: Documentary on legendary Chief Tzouhalem to be filmed in Cowichan

“This film is being used to preserve an prominent figure, and an important part of history. A film like Tzouahlem has never been done. No one has ever had the opportunity to do a film like this,” Joe said. “I am honoured that we had the chance to take an oral story like this and bring it to life. It’s such a treat to do a documentary like this in my own back yard, about an iconic figure in our Cowichan community — and the account of his life will remain alive for years to come. So, for me, to take a story that’s been given orally and turn it into a film is of the utmost honour to be a part of.”

According to a press release, Tzouhalem examines details passed on by both historians and First Nations Elders, the impact Tzouhalem had on the modern relationship between the Crown and the First Nations, and how his legend remains alive today. It explores how his story has been told and passed on, and by who.”

The documentary story is told through interviews and creative re-enactments and examines the near-mythic figure of Cowichan Chief Tzouhalem and the folkloric tales concerning him.

“The Cowichan community, my people, were really receptive to the telling of this story, with open arms. Not just the community, but Cowichan Tribes was also very open and supportive of the film. Many Elders and community members participated with interviews and performing in the re-enactments,” said filmmaker Harold Joe. “Everybody from the community does know about Tzouhalem, from our peoples’ history. There were a lot of misconceptions from the non-First Nations folks, from what they had heard about our legendary Chief. So, it was important to have First Nations sharing this history – coming from our elders and an old, hand-written story by the late Abel Joe to make absolute sure we were on the right track.”

Joe said it had always been his hope to share the movie with a large audience.

“I had dreamed that thousands and tens of thousands of people would see it, as it’s a unique story, a powerful one, and a real story that is important to our people,” he said. “I have more Cowichan stories planned – it’s an endless vault of ideas to come forth. Tzouhalem is just one of many that come from our community, but it was always the one that stood out to me to start with, as it has such a long arm to reach so many people.”

Pending COVID-19 provincial health restrictions, the film will be shown at 7 p.m. on March 4 at the Chemainus Theatre, at 7 p.m. on March 5 at the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre in Duncan and a 2 p.m. matinee on March 13, also at the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre.

For those unable to make those dates, the film will also run at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on March 11 at Cinecenta UVIC in Victoria.

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Sarah Simpson

About the Author: Sarah Simpson

I started my time with Black Press Media as an intern, before joining the Citizen in the summer of 2004.
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