HOMECOMING is a paddling adventure that raises awareness about the threat of proposed sulfide-ore copper mining near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Northern Minnesota. Joe Fairbanks ‘17 directs and Forrest Town ‘18 directs photography.
Joe was born and raised in Northern Minnesota. In HOMECOMING, he travels through the same waters where he learned to paddle as a boy. Today, these are some of the most endangered waters in the world. Joe reflects on the experience of being diagnosed with cancer and draws on his personal connection to the natural landscape for strength and healing to illustrate the importance of nature preservation.
This isn’t the first time Joe and Forrest worked together on a film. The two met at Dartmouth as interns in the Sustainability Office with the Dartmouth Bikes program. For his honors film in the Film and Media Studies Department, Joe made (re)cylcers. The short documentary explains Dartmouth Bikes’ mission to empower students to tackle campus bike waste.
Joe credits (re)cyclers as his first attempt to leverage film to spark conversation and inspire action on sustainability issues. One of the sustainability issues Joe has always been passionate about is protecting the Boundary Waters. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area wilderness is America’s most visited wilderness and encompasses more than one million acres of lakes and forest on Minnesota’s border with Canada.
“I was thinking about what I learned at Dartmouth both as a student and as an intern in the Sustainability Office to create change. When I thought about how I could advocate for the Boundary Waters and bring some of those skills back home to Northern Minnesota, I decided I wanted to create a film.”
HOMECOMING began when Joe received the J. Blaire Watson Award from Dartmouth’s Department of Film and Media Studies. The Award is given to a qualifying film student at Dartmouth to assist in building a portfolio upon graduation.
In 2017, upon Joe’s graduation from Dartmouth, his father gave him a homemade wood canvas canoe. The original idea for HOMECOMING was to document Joe taking his father’s canoe on a maiden voyage into the watershed where he learned to paddle as a boy – the same waters that are endangered by proposed sulfide-ore copper mining today. Plans changed when Joe was diagnosed with cancer in April 2018. Rather than embarking on the proposed 14-day canoe expedition through the Boundary Waters that July, filming took place in two windows: a 7-day trip between Joe’s radiation therapy and surgery in June 2018, and a 7-day trip after Joe had recovered from surgery in October 2018.
HOMECOMING was filmed throughout Northern Minnesota. It includes scenes from the North Shore of Lake Superior, Superior National Forest, The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, and the Fairbanks family wood shop in Duluth.