________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 3 . . . . October 1, 2004


Leaving the Lights.

Chris Jaksa (Director). Tracey Friesen (Producer). Rina Fraticelli and Graydon McCrea (Executive Producers).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2004.
40 min., VHS, $99.95.
Order Number: C9104 043.

Subject Headings:
Lighthouse keepers-British Columbia.
Lighthouses-British Columbia-History.

Grades 10 and up /Ages 15 and up.

Review by Regina Bandong.

*** /4


"British Columbia meets the Pacific Ocean along 27, 200 kilometres of rugged coastline. Much of it remains inaccessible and inhabited."

"For the past 130 years lighthouse keepers have been going out rescuing people," says Ed Kidder.

A Global TV Reporter narrates, "Ottawa has implemented a destaffing campaign that has left only 27 of British Columbia's 43 lighthouses with full time lighthouse keepers. The Department of Fisheries with today's navigation technology sees fog horns and manned lighthouses as obsolete."

"You don't have your job and then your life. Your job is your life. Your life is your job," says Pat Kidder.

"I've been involved probably in hundreds of small incidents," says Ed Kidder. "You can't find a mechanic out here. If your boat breaks down, I have the resources to help. To me that is useful. It's bureaucrats making decisions about something they don't understand."

"I've never lived much father than this from the water all my life and I don't know how I'm going to adjust to town living because there is no way I can afford this kind or real estate," says Pat Kidder.


Leaving the Lights is a video that documents the days leading to the retirement of Ed and Pat Kidder, the longest serving lighthouse keepers in British Columbia. Chris Jaksa, an award-winning photographer and the video's director, intersperses billowing waves, changing tides, and seaside scenery for backdrop. His purpose for the scenic backdrop is to make viewers aware that, even in the isolated regions of British Columbia, people can still be affected by politicians' decisions in Ottawa. As the harmonica's tune accompanies the raw and awesome beauty of nature, captions, news clips, family photographs, and personal anecdotes of Ed and Pat Kidder are interwoven into the video narrative.

     Ed and Pat Kidder are two unlikely individuals who guard the most treacherous coastal region off the northwestern tip of Vancouver Island. With his hair tied in a ponytail, Ed dons his Coast Guard emblazoned orange jacket, revs the engine of his orange motor boat, and is quite often the first on the scene of any distress call. Pat, with her stringy white hair, sporting a cigarette between her fingers, sits at her chair listening to the airwave traffic. Beneath the Kidders' anecdotes dotted with cussing, however, viewers would find heart in these two individuals.

     To understand the life of Ed and Pat Kidder, the documentary begins at the end. After 42 years of service on the rugged Pacific Northwest coast, Ed and Pat Kidder are awarded the Queen's Jubilee Medal for being the longest working lighthouse keepers in British Columbia.

     Perched on San Rafael Island, where the Nootka Lighthouse Station sits, the Kidders are self-sufficient and tend to keep to themselves, but, whenever there is a boat in danger, they are quick and eager to help. The Kidders have earned a reputation among lighthouse keepers and mariners who ply British Columbia's waters after having participated in more than 20 lifesaving rescues in a span of more than four decades.

     Lighthouse keepers are integral to the safety of mariners sailing on the west coast shores of British Columbia. Despite Ottawa's valiant efforts to forego manned light stations, the Kidders and other lighthouse keepers persevere in their duties to rescue and serve the public. Their duties include keeping up-to-date weather reports which the Coast Guard and other mariners rely on to plot rescues and travels at sea. Also, when a distress signal hits the airwaves, the Kidders are on stand-by, twenty-four hours a day, to lend a hand.

     Many may view this video as a bittersweet farewell to a familiar way of life; yet, for Ed and Pat Kidder, it is a story of courage and new beginnings. Whatever comes their way whether it be buying a new house, living in town, or being surrounded by people, they will face their challenges together, as they did for many years in their beloved lighthouse.

     Leaving the Lights would be a good video supplement to any curriculum that deals with government bureaucracy. Viewers and students alike will begin to realize how government decisions could potentially affect and threaten an individual's way of life.

Highly Recommended.

Living near Vancouver, BC, Regina Bandong is an entrepreneur and a freelance writer.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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