Two centuries of B.C. history told through a diverse lens in new documentary series

·3 min read
The documentary features voices and stories that viewers may not have heard before, says director Kevin Eastwood. (Knowledge Network/Submitted - image credit)
The documentary features voices and stories that viewers may not have heard before, says director Kevin Eastwood. (Knowledge Network/Submitted - image credit)

A new four-part documentary tells the story of how British Columbia came to be through a more inclusive lens, with voices of people from communities that have often been marginalized.

British Columbia: The Untold History will take viewers on a journey that spans 200 years starting from the late 18th century, weaving together stories from Indigenous, Chinese, Japanese, Punjabi, Black and European people, says director Kevin Eastwood.

He adds that the docuseries, which airs on the Knowledge Network over the next four weeks, is also a platform for people of colour to share their stories of systemic racism.

"It's no small thing to tell these stories because even though it's so-called history, it's not. These are people that are directly connected and impacted by the events they're describing," he said.

Knowledge Network/Submitted
Knowledge Network/Submitted

"I have lived in British Columbia my whole life. I'm born here and I didn't know a lot of the stuff and it was a lot of education for me," the Canadian director added.

Producer Leena Minifie, who is Gitxaala-British, says the research team behind the documentary, including herself, conducted hundreds of interviews and went through more than 10,000 pieces of archival material to tell the stories, which are typically left out of history classes.

She says after more than two years of research, the team narrowed down the material to a final edit of 70 interviews for the four-part series.

Knowledge Network/Submitted
Knowledge Network/Submitted

"I wanted this series to be a platform ... to share some of their stories with an audience who may not have heard them before," she said. "A lot of these stories have been passed down from generation to generation."

A diverse production

It was just as important that the production crew was inclusive, says Minifie.

"When it comes to hiring, diversity, equity and inclusion are my reasons for living," she said. "My way is always to hire a huge percentage of BIPOC crew or Indigenous crew. I won't go into a project without it."

Knowledge Network also worked with a local inclusive marketing agency called AndHumanity to assess whether people from the communities reflected in the documentary felt they were being authentically represented.

Knowledge Network/ Submitted
Knowledge Network/ Submitted

"It supports the idea of nothing about us without us, which really infers that it's not spoken from the white gaze or a perspective outside of the community, but from the community itself," said AndHumanity co-founder Tammy Tsang, who is Canadian-born Chinese.

"While not all perspectives of history were included, there definitely was an effort to include as many as possible," she added.

Eastwood says he believes documentaries that tell B.C.'s history through diverse perspectives can help carve a path toward understanding.

Knowledge Network/Submitted
Knowledge Network/Submitted

"We were amazed how stories that took place 100 years ago ... were still seeming to bubble up and take up space in the front pages of our newspaper," he said.

"There's an old cliche, those who don't know history repeat it."

Knowledge Network/Submitted
Knowledge Network/Submitted

Viewers can stream the four-part documentary series for free on the Knowledge Network.

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