A Cut Above:
My Grandfather Was a Logger.
Directed by Karen Bastgailis.
All About Us Canada Foundation, 1995. 23 minutes, VHS, $250.00.
Distributed by Moving Images Distribution.
Phone: 1 (800) 684-3014 /
Fax: 1 (604) 684-7165.
Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.
Review by T.S. Causabon.
"Switzerland outlawed clearcutting two hundred and eight years ago. When
I was there in 'eighty-six, their cut was one-tenth of our cut in British
Columbia. You had that one-tenth employing ten times the number of people
and getting eleven dollars into their economy for every buck we got . . .
We just don't make sense."
A Cut Above is a look at the logging industry on Vancouver
Island and the West Coast through the eyes of Mike Tardiff, a
third-generation worker in the forest-industry.
Tardiff, a stocky, personable mill-worker (who also writes and performs
his own music), visits several alternative forestry operations that
practice selective logging, as well as some local labor-intensive
industries that use the products from British Columbia's forests: a
home-construction firm, a boat-builder, and a guitar-works.
In the early part of the film, the various selective logging
operations make a strong case for their economic efficiency -- they may
not bring in the huge volumes that clear-cutters do, but they also
don't need the infrastructure of roads and huge equipment. Tardiff is
sympathetic to their ecological concerns, but as someone whose family has
been working in the forest industry for generations, he worries about
another bottom-line question: can selective logging bring in enough
volume of timber to sustain the jobs of mill-workers like him?
The local industries he visits seem to provide an answer: their
products are in demand, use lumber with tremendous efficiency, and employ
many more people per log than the big mills do. But all of them have the same complaint: though they
are based in one of the great timber reserves of the world, they struggle
to find wood to keep their workers employed. The large forestry concerns
have rights to almost all of the logging, and they're not interested in
selling small amounts of timber to small operations.
A Cut Above will make anyone consider whether Canada's
entire forestry strategy needs re-thinking. As one of the people Tardiff
speaks to points out, our forests are no more inexhaustible than our
fish; it might be both environmentally and economically smarter to harvest
fewer trees, but use more of them in high-value secondary industries.
If there's a flaw in A Cut Above, it's only that there
is no representation from the forces of the status quo. Otherwise, the
workers and industries chosen manage to give a small film with a fairly
narrow mandate plenty of variety, and Tardiff is an accessible and
down-to-earth host. It's sobering to read in the closing credits that
"three months after filming was completed, Mike Tardiff's entire mill
shift of 35 men was laid off until further notice."
Highly recommended for senior classes in environmental studies or
T.S. Causabon is a freelance writer living in Winnipeg.
To comment on this title or this review, send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association.
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