The volatile nature of the word “radical” is explored in The Radicals, a documentary directed by snowboarders Brian Hockenstein and Tamo Campos. The film questions what it means to be a radical by juxtaposing the world of snowboarding and surfing with the Xwisten, Tahltan, Musgamagw, Nagmis, and Haida nations’ fight to protect their culture and ancestral lands.
In snowboarding and surfing, “radical” is considered a compliment, as it describes someone who pushes boundaries and challenges the odds. However, radical’s positive association in sports does not translate when applied to the Indigenous people depicted in the film. While these Indigenous activists continue to push boundaries in the fight to protect their heritage, they face a double standard since their label as “radicals” is often placed maliciously.
As BC Hydro infringes on its land use agreement with the Xwisten Nation, killing their sacred salmon population, the Xwisten people resist by working with ecologists to save their fish. Meghann O’Brien, a snowboarder and textile artist of the Haida, weaves to preserve and share her culture’s history. The snowboarders and surfers in The Radicals draw inspiration from the First Nations peoples’ fight, and apply it to preserving the mountains and oceans that allow them to pursue their passions. The Radicals finds common ground between the athletes and Indigenous communities, focusing on the importance of personal responsibility, community and traditions for motivating their battles to protect what they love.
The film’s cinematography intertwines seemingly effortless surfing and snowboarding on breathtaking landscapes with the bleak yet honest reality of the everyday fight Indigenous communities experience, such as confronting corporations for trespassing on their land and pulling diseased salmon out of the rivers. This stark contrast illustrates the same image of passion and a deep-rooted connection to nature. The film reminds us to stand up and take action for what we believe in — to be radical in our efforts to preserve our identities, histories and communities.
If you would like to contribute to the causes of the film, you can donate to the Dzawada’enuxw’s legal fund to assist them in their lawsuit against the BC government and to create legal precedents and stop factory fish farming on the coast. You can also support the Tahltan community as they rebuild their homes and communities that were affected by the climate fires, or reach out to help the Xwisten protect the Bridge River salmon run ecological restorations.