CM . . . .
Volume VI Number 5 . . . . October 29, 1999
O'Siem: One Man's Powerful Journey of Healing.
Gillian Darling Kovanic (Director). George Johnson (Producer).
Montreal, PQ: Tamarin Productions Inc. (Distributed by the National Film Board of Canada),
53 min., 42 sec., VHS, $39.95.
Order Number: C9196 113.
Indian Shaker Church-Clergy-Columbia-Biography.
Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.
Review by Katie Cook.
This video follows the quest of Gene Harry to heal himself. At the age of 17, Gene was in prison.
At his aunt's request, he was released into her custody. A Shaker Church minister, she was the
beginning of his journey of healing, a journey that he explores in this video. Using a combination
of archival footage, narration, and pictures, Gene moves from his present as a loving father,
healer, spirit dancer, canoe racer and Indian Shaker Church minister to his past, including his life
in a residential school, his fights with alcohol and drugs, and his prison sentence. Constantly
moving back and forth from the past to the present, this is a compelling look at the forces in one
man's life and the journey that he continues to travel.
Throughout most of the video, Gene is the narrator. He is very understandable and articulate,
especially once you realize that his formal education ended at the fourth grade when he ran away
from residential school after the suicide of his cousin. His wife is equally articulate in describing
her part in his journey, especially the family aspects of their life together. Gene, who was himself
adopted, and his wife have adopted their second daughter, a girl with Down's syndrome, and their
young son. The music chosen for the film contributes to the overall effect. Susan Aglukark's
"O'Siem" is the theme song. The First Nations singing and dancing add greatly to the experiences
that Gene narrates. The scenic footage is equally impressive. The ancient beliefs and rituals that
Gene teaches are beautifully framed by the stunning vistas of his natal province and present home,
British Columbia, from its frothing waterfalls and towering mountains to the coastal scenes during
the canoe races. Also incorporated is news footage of races in Hong Kong. The one shortcoming
of the footage is the pictures' occasionally "skip" or "jump" which is quite disconcerting and
seems to be a flaw in the editing. As well, moving from section to section, memory to memory is
not always as seamless as it should be.
Nonetheless, O'Siem would be useful in a high school setting, especially in Native Studies
classes. Because much of Gene's journey is spiritual, the video would also fit into any religion or
Katie Cook is a social studies teacher and a teacher-librarian at the Steinbach Regional Secondary
School in Steinbach, MB.
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