(This is for school, that is why it is written so properly. This is, however, something I am passionate about; so even if you aren't my teacher, I would still love for you to read it.)
Last summer, I was visiting my aunt in Bobcaygeon for two weeks. A fun fact about my aunt: she was really good friends with Gord Downie. So, here we were, in her car, driving to Toronto, so she could bring this overly protected and inexperienced child to see what the world is like. She had a music disc playing through the speakers, and I could tell it was Gord Downie; she was singing every word of every song. At the time, I didn’t know what this meant, or why it meant so much, but I knew it was special. It wasn’t until we started this project that I finally understood. As somebody who has a mixed race family and many people who identify as queer, this album means a lot to people who feel outcasted. We have all had those times where we were walking down this dark path with no light at the end; and that is why this story is so powerful.
Music is universal, it doesn’t matter who created it, or what language it is written in, or what it sounds like; the message of the song goes over every border and into all ears. As somebody who has grown up listening to music, and in my opinion, can not live without it, I can say with full confidence that this album is no exception. When you listen to the first three seconds of a song, something happens to your body. You are overcome with the song, how it sounds, feels, tastes. That is why music makes us laugh, or cry, or smile; it connects to people. What this music tells is a tragic and horrifying story of a young boy; this is a too common of a story. The first seconds of the first song, The Stranger, sets the entire mood and ambience for what is to come. Gord hits you with the powerful melody and heavy lyrics; they are raw and truthful. Each line of lyrics is chosen perfectly, but somehow effortlessly, as if the story flowed and was pieced seamlessly. This, in combination with the amazing instrumentals of back it, makes an impressive way to tell a legacy. Chanie Wenjack’s story was meant for Gord; the death of this child created a life of something greater.
Staying in theme with the work of Gord Downie, secretpath.ca is a fantastic site. The site keeps the same art, text, and style as the book and the film. This gives all of the media Gord used have a seamless transition for the audience. Gord’s music is much more of a broad explanation, while the website is a more direct approach. The continuous scroll of the site makes it easy to read and find all of the information. It tells Chanie Wenjack’s story as it is; no sugarcoating and no symbolism to hide behind. This was created for the audience that enjoys direct information, without being persuaded by the sentimental value of music or art. This is the raw truth of the story. The website uses amazing illustrations from the book, links to donation pages, videos, articles, and credits everyone wonderfully.
The animated film on Chanie Wenjack’s story is something entirely different from anything I have ever watched. The film uses the combined methods of the book and the music to make a heart-wrenching animation. I deeply enjoyed how the soundtrack for the entire film was simply the music, it added another level of meaning to the film. I also loved how the entire film was done in desaturated tones for when Chanie was not with his family. This brings the audience’s attention to feeling cold, lost, and helpless. While in the scenes with Chanie’s family, specifically his father, we see reds, oranges, and yellows; all colours that emphasize warmth and comfort. This truly brings the viewer into the darkness of this story and how horrible it is. The scene near the end, where Chanie dies, is a bit of a representation of what happens when people die of hypothermia. What happens is that the body gets so cold that it suddenly feels extremely warm; often causing hallucinations and radical actions. This is shown when Chanie goes into the warmth of his father, hallucinated that he is home; but then turning back and seeing his body. It was truly a chilling scene that ended the story at the right moment. There is no happy ending, no fairy tale, it was harsh and depressing; just as the end of Chanie Wenjack’s life was.
In conclusion, the different media Gord Downie used to project the story of Chanie Wenjack were all effective in their own way, and made the viewer feel different depending on how it was delivered. Something that all of these mediums is the hope for the future; this was what Gord Downie and the family of Chanie really want. I remember watching the last Tragically Hip concert on my TV, and in the middle of it, Gord spoke directly to the Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau; who was in the audience with his wife and children. Gord spoke about the trials and the horrible lives that many Inuit people face in the northern part of our country. He looked at the Prime Minister and said that something needed to be done; it was in that moment that everybody knew that something was going to be done. Chanie and Gord’s legacy lives through the people who truly care about the well being of our country, and that is why these projects are so important. Without them, Chanie would just be another Indigenous death to add to a number of many.
Downie, Gord. “Secret Path.” Secret Path, 2016, secretpath.ca/.
GordDownieVideos. “GordDownieVideos.” YouTube, YouTube, www.youtube.com/channel/UCHvACVHTJ7GR3UblzN4UZRg.
this is where i ramble; have fun