Canadian film made in language spoken by just 20 people in the world

Plenty of films are somewhat incomprehensible, but a forthcoming movie is in a language that only about 20 people in the world can speak fluently.

With subtitles, audiences will be able to understand a feature film titled SGaawaay K’uuna, translated as Edge of the Knife, which has its UK premiere in April.

It is in two dialects of the highly endangered Haida language, the ancestral tongue of the Haida people of British Columbia. It is unrelated to any other language, and actors had to learn it to understand their lines.

The film is playing an important role in preserving the language, its director Gwaai Edenshaw said. He told the Guardian: “I know that, if our language is this far gone, statistically it’s supposed to be over. But that’s not something that we’re willing to accept.”

The Haida are an Indigenous First Nations community whose traditional territory is Haida Gwaii (formerly Queen Charlotte Islands), an archipelago of forested islands off the west coast of Canada.

Edenshaw said most of the fluent Haida speakers were in his Haida Gwaii homeland. “There’s a smattering off the island [who] also speak it.” Edenshaw himself speaks some of the language but is not fluent, having been taught at school in English.

He added that the community generally lives off the sea and makes dugout canoes and houses from local red cedars. Noting that their numbers were ravaged by smallpox and other diseases in the 19th century, he said a former population of tens of thousands has dwindled to a few thousand today.

Read more: The Guardian

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