Documentaries have one job, and really only one job, to tell the audience an interesting and captivating story. Thankfully, Leslie D. Bland and Harold Joe filmed the documentary Tzouhalem. Through it, they captivate audiences with their story of the practically mythic chief Tzouhalem. They also captured what his legend means to the First Nations people today and how they tell and preserve his story. The high points are when the documentary focuses on the mythology, ideology, and facts about Tzouhalem. But it falls short when it dives into other topics and has reenactments with narration. There is a lot going for Tzouhalem but its shortcomings are unfortunately its ultimate downfall.
The documentary tells the story of Tzouhalem through interviews, reenactments and historians sharing what they know about Tzouhalem’s history. There is so much information that audiences have to absorb that brings this native chief to the mythical status. And that chief’s mythical status itself brings so much life and depth to this documentary. However there are moments when it wanders more into the Native American history. It also wanders into the story of the tribe of Cowichan, which Tzouhalem was the chief of. And the subject matter gets subdued by sidelining its main story.
The best parts of the documentary are when they focus on their main subject matter and divulge into his history, mythology and what he did for the protection of his tribe and people. Tzouhalem built a relationship between his tribe and the Crown. This also provided a very interesting tale for the audience to indulge in. The stories from the academics as well are truly intriguing. They captivate his legend, mythology and importance to the tribe and the current world.
The two major downfalls of Tzouhalem fall into two separate issues, one is the narration and the other is the sidelined story aspects. First of all, the documentary ushers this narrator as an expert voice in discussing its subjects. He has no charisma or depth to his voice so everything is monotoned and rather uninspired when being told. With the lack of a good narrator, the reenactments lack that depth and intrigue that would elevate this documentary to a higher status. As well, the documentary eventually leaves the mythology and story of Tzouhalem behind. It starts to tell the story of the Native Americans and tribe. That’s when it lacks that punch the rest of the documentary packs.
The subject matter of Tzouhalem is what brings the audience in. It also brings a sense of intrigue to the forefront and engages the audience. The documentary’s flaws though detract from this otherwise intriguing documentary. Overall, the intrigue is present and the presentation of the documentary itself just needs to be improved. But the subject matter and mythology of Tzouhalem certainly brings enough interest to captivate the audience.