FOREST FOR THE TREES - The Tree Planters. For EDU media servers
This visually and artistically unique documentary explores the physical and emotional aspects of a community of Canadian west coast tree planters. Deftly weaving together still photos and film footage, Rita Leistner, an award-winning photographer, photojournalist, filmmaker and erstwhile tree planter (who has been nominated for a 2022 Canadian Screen Award for Best Cinematography for her work in this film), depicts the contradictions in the experiences of the tree planters—the hardship and the healing; the solitude and the joy of belonging—creating an eloquent cinematic metaphor for the human condition.
As the film opens, a birds-eye view of a logging truck loaded with newly-felled trees meaningfully shifts to a panoramic shot of desolate clear-cut terrain. Here a lone figure, weighed down on all sides with heavy bags of seedlings, plunges a shovel into the ground, bends to nestle the tree into the hole, gently covering it up before moving on to the next. This is done thousands of times a day by tree planters who endure inclement weather, voracious insects, injuries, hunger and crushing fatigue. Alone with their thoughts, the planters describe for the camera how the work has helped them overcome a myriad of personal issues ranging from addiction and mental illness to self-doubt, heartbreak and grief.
Finding common cause, self-knowledge and meaning in their formidable task, the tree planters restore themselves and each other in the process of restoring the environment.