In 1966, the residents of Clattice Harbour packed up and left their home on the Burin Peninsula to stake a claim elsewhere.
The census info available from the first half of the 20th century includes just a handful of family names. Then, for many years, Clattice Harbour was a ghost town, with only ruined wharves and a few marked gravesites at the edge of the woods setting it apart from the rest of the uninhabited shoreline.
Now, more and more people are travelling to and building structures on their family’s former land, including Susan Cahill’s parents, Yvonne Hepditch and Jim Cahill.
This summer, the fiftieth anniversary of Cahill’s mother and her family relocating as part of the government-directed resettlement program, Cahill will be travelling to Clattice Habour with her parents for the first time, and filming the experience.
The project, which she has titled A Sentimental Journey: Travels Home in a Resettled Newfoundland Community, will trace the story of her parents as they travel to the home they have built together over the last decade on the former site of Yvonne’s family land.
“I’m close with my parents, but this project has given me new access into their life” says Cahill. After completing her undergrad in at Memorial, Cahill moved away. Since then, she has taken a position as a professor of Art History at University of Calgary.
“I always assumed I’d move back, but my professional trajectory never lead back this way,” says Cahill. “So, it’s my opportunity to pursue a personal interest while fulfilling a creative and professional impulse.” While Cahill’s parents shared stories and photographs with her, Cahill has never been to Clattice Harbour.
Cahill will be interviewing relatives, members of the community, and government officials. Contemporary footage of Clattice Harbour and of her parents is interwoven with archival photographs and film.
“In 2012, my father wrote a little book for my mother,” says Cahill. “It traced their time together in Clattice Harbour, starting with their first visit there in 1978.”
Cahill is aware of the dangers of experiencing life through the lens of a camera. “I don’t want this project to be a distanced analysis about the broad history of resettlement. I want it to tell a personal narrative about what resettlement means for one family right now. So, this project isn’t about my analysis. It’s me going out and seeing who [my parents] are in this moment, and trying to tell that story.”
The first-time director will be working with New Brunswick filmmaker Matthew Rogers of Frictive Pictures. “Matt has the experience in making documentaries, and I’m learning a lot from him. He was really taken with the personal story here [and] we’re co-directing and collaborating to shape this.”
Filming will continue to the end of the summer, followed by editing, with hopes of release next summer on the film festival circuit. “Like every project ever, the path you plan isn’t ever the path you end up traversing,” she says. Cahill is looking forward to the journey.
“Clattice Harbour is only accessible by boat,” she says. “Fingers crossed for lovely weather.”