One of my favorite things I get to do here at Canoeroots is prescreen the films entered in our Reel Paddling Film Festival. You’re probably imagining me wearing thick, black-rimmed glasses and a beret, sitting at the front of an otherwise empty theatre, snifter of brandy in one hand and a
Cuban cigar in the other shouting up to the guy in the projector room.
I like that image too.
Too bad I don’t drink, smoke or have a theatre within 100 kilometers of here.
Picture this instead.
Two bags of Orville Redenbacher's microwave popcorn, plaid flannel pajamas and snuggled on the sofa with my wife, Tanya, and two children.
Brainwashing, according to D. M. Kowal in the Encyclopedia of Psychology, is a controversial scientific theory in which human subjects can be indoctrinated in a way that causes, “an impairment of autonomy, an inability to think independently, and a disruption of beliefs and affiliations.” Brainwashing, writes Kowal, is the involuntary reeducation of basic beliefs and values.
Controversial maybe, but exactly my master plan.
You see, the goal with the film festival from the very beginning was to feed the enthusiasm of paddling enthusiasts and cause an impairment of autonomy, an inability to think independently, and a disruption of beliefs and affiliations in our friends and family members.
Why else would you invite your brother, boyfriend or buddy to an evening of paddling movies?
Why else would you send children to forest schools? Why else would you teach teenagers to build birchbark canoes?
I know brainwashing works. I’m living proof.
I was sent to school on snow days—days when the country roads were too dangerous for school buses but safe enough for half-a-dozen working mothers in Oldsmobiles to drop their kids at the school’s doorstep. Six of us would be corralled in the gym where the teachers fed us whatever films our tiny library had in stock. Paddle to the Sea by filmmaker, author, environmentalist and canoeist Bill Mason was my favorite.
My parents were not paddlers. They couldn’t even swim. So how did I end up with a degree in outdoor recreation, teaching whitewater canoeing and eventually running the world’s largest paddlesports media company? If you watch the story of a carved wooden Native man in a canoe trying to find the ocean enough times it causes an involuntary reeducation of basic beliefs and values.
My son Doug’s favorite film this year was Rediscovering North America. Six dudes in three canoes leave the Gulf of Mexico and head up the Mississippi River toward the Arctic Ocean. It’s a great film of adventure and tomfoolery and this year’s Best Adventure Travel Film award winner. Two hundred and forty days, seven rivers and two bags of popcorn later, the boys make it to the tiny hamlet of Kugluktuk at the mouth of the Coppermine River.
Most scholars do not accept the theory of mind control as scientific fact.
Meanwhile, Doug grabs his pillow and announces he’s changing his summer camp electives from in-camp activities to the traditional canoe tripping program and goes off to his bedroom to message his cabin buddies to do the same.
At a recent fundraiser for the Bill Mason Scholarship Fund, Becky Mason’s husband, Reid McLachlan, told a story of watching Paddle to the Sea with his friend Thomas Mapother in their grade three class. Looking back, Reid wonders if Thomas was inspired by the magic and power of that same canoe film. You see, when Tom became a teenager he went to California to become an actor; he changed his last name to Cruise and has done quite well for himself in Hollywood.
True stories. If you don’t believe me, read it a few more times.
Scott MacGregor is the founder and publisher of Canoeroots. Doug would like the credit for coming up with the idea for this editorial. “Dad, you should write about making us watch all those paddling films with you.” Scott and Doug live with Doug's mom and sister in the Ottawa Valley, Ontario. Watch THE CANOE, an award-winning film that tells the story of Canada's connection to water and how paddling in Ontario is enriching the lives of those who paddle there. #PaddleON.