Skilfully intertwining narratives concerning residential school survivors and Indigenous peoples’ relationship with imperiled wild Pacific salmon, Sean Stiller’s stirring documentary is a revelatory testament to strength and resilience.
At the heart of the film is Phyllis Jack-Webstad, the survivor who founded the Orange Shirt Day movement. While Phyllis recounts her childhood trials to youth across the country, her relations in the Secwépemc territory near Williams Lake are contending with another outcome of colonialism: the upper Fraser River’s lowest salmon runs in Canadian history. In observing the interconnection between the Secwépemc and salmon, Stiller lays bare the impacts of overfishing on these communities.
The first production by Canadian Geographic, Returning Home balances Stiller’s stunning cinematography with clear-eyed testimonies to the unforgivable transgressions endured by Phyllis and other survivors within the walls of residential schools. Likewise, it effectively illustrates what it means to truly be in good relationship with the land and shares how, for the Secwépemc, healing people and healing the natural world are synonymous.
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Sean Stiller is an award-winning filmmaker specializing in documentary, Indigenous, and commissioned productions. During the past seven years, he has worked on a variety of productions, from TV series to feature-length films and branded documentary series, as well as his own original productions. Sean’s films have screened at ImagineNative, Planet In Focus Environmental Film Festival, Maoriland, and Maryland International Film Festival, among others. Sean’s first short film, Kékwu (2017), won awards for Best Short and for cinematography at several international festivals and its rights were acquired by CBC. Sean is a member of the Williams Lake First Nation (T’exelc).