What would it be like to live alongside one of the shapers of human events, in their youth, before they transformed history? In Fractured Land, we follow Caleb Behn, a young Dene lawyer who may become one of this generation’s great leaders, if he can discover how to reconcile the fractures within himself, his community and the world around him, blending modern tools of the law with ancient wisdom. As 350.org founder, Bill McKibben, puts it, "Anyone who can throw a hatchet and sue you is a force to be reckoned with."
Caleb sports a Mohawk and tattoos, hunts moose, and wears a business suit. His father is a devout environmentalist and residential school survivor. His mother is a top executive for the oil and gas industry. His people, at the epicenter of some of the largest fracking operations on earth, are deeply divided. How does Caleb balance their need for jobs with his sacred duty to defend their territory? He has arrived at a key moment in history, sees the contradictions, and wants to reconcile them.
Filmmakers Fiona Rayher and Damien Gillis have been following Caleb for four years, capturing hundreds of hours of footage of his development, through law school, sharing knowledge with other Indigenous peoples, speaking to larger and larger audiences, dealing with deep community divisions, and building a movement.
"Anyone who can throw a hatchet and sue you is a force to be reckoned with."
- Bill McKibben
Caleb’s first attempt at representing his people was as an oil and gas officer. He soon found himself on the front lines of a shale gas boom. The relatively new technique, also called "fracking", involves drilling deep underground into shale beds and unleashing gases with a blast of high-pressure water, sand and toxic chemicals. It was Caleb's job to sift through the boxes and rooms full of “referrals” from industry – telling him what they wanted to do on his people’s land. He held the record for most delayed applications, yet not one application was denied on the basis of his arguments. This is when he decided to go to law school.
Caleb explains how high the stakes are, affecting more than just the Dene. We learn how myriad pipelines are planned to carry gas from his territory across other indigenous communities and the rivers and streams of northern BC – all in order to convert it into liquid and ship to new markets in Asia.
Massive tankers would carry this liquefied natural gas (LNG) – derived from an enormous planned increase of fracking on Caleb’s land - along BC’s rugged coast and off to China, Korea and Japan. These emissions from fracking and LNG plants threaten to triple BC’s carbon footprint – rivaling the Alberta tar sands.
Realizing that law alone may not be enough, Caleb becomes political, speaking at demonstrations, where he becomes an unexpected star. Suddenly, he is not alone. We travel with him to New Zealand where he consults the Maori, and to the Sacred Headwaters of the Tahltan people, who recently forced Shell Oil to halt its plans for a massive fracking operation in their territory.
These nations are raising new leaders like Caleb, forging alliances with scientists and environmentalists, sharing strategies using traditional knowledge and contemporary law. For the human species to survive, we need to learn to see ourselves as part of nature. These ancient cultures have ways of seeing that can help, if we join forces with them.