CM March 8, 
1996. Vol. II, Number 21

image A Cut Above:
My Grandfather Was a Logger.

Directed by Karen Bastgailis.
All About Us Canada Foundation, 1995. 23 minutes, VHS, $250.00.
Distributed by Moving Images Distribution.
Phone: 1 (800) 684-3014 /
Fax: 1 (604) 684-7165.

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.
Review by T.S. Causabon.



"Switzerland outlawed clearcutting two hundred and eight years ago. When I was there in 'eighty-six, their cut was one-tenth of our cut in British Columbia. You had that one-tenth employing ten times the number of people and getting eleven dollars into their economy for every buck we got . . . We just don't make sense."

image A Cut Above is a look at the logging industry on Vancouver Island and the West Coast through the eyes of Mike Tardiff, a third-generation worker in the forest-industry.

Tardiff, a stocky, personable mill-worker (who also writes and performs his own music), visits several alternative forestry operations that practice selective logging, as well as some local labor-intensive industries that use the products from British Columbia's forests: a home-construction firm, a boat-builder, and a guitar-works.

In the early part of the film, the various selective logging operations make a strong case for their economic efficiency -- they may not bring in the huge volumes that clear-cutters do, but they also don't need the infrastructure of roads and huge equipment. Tardiff is sympathetic to their ecological concerns, but as someone whose family has been working in the forest industry for generations, he worries about another bottom-line question: can selective logging bring in enough volume of timber to sustain the jobs of mill-workers like him?


The local industries he visits seem to provide an answer: their products are in demand, use lumber with tremendous efficiency, and employ many more people per log than the big mills do. But all of them have the same complaint: though they are based in one of the great timber reserves of the world, they struggle to find wood to keep their workers employed. The large forestry concerns have rights to almost all of the logging, and they're not interested in selling small amounts of timber to small operations.

A Cut Above will make anyone consider whether Canada's entire forestry strategy needs re-thinking. As one of the people Tardiff speaks to points out, our forests are no more inexhaustible than our fish; it might be both environmentally and economically smarter to harvest fewer trees, but use more of them in high-value secondary industries.

If there's a flaw in A Cut Above, it's only that there is no representation from the forces of the status quo. Otherwise, the workers and industries chosen manage to give a small film with a fairly narrow mandate plenty of variety, and Tardiff is an accessible and down-to-earth host. It's sobering to read in the closing credits that "three months after filming was completed, Mike Tardiff's entire mill shift of 35 men was laid off until further notice."

Highly recommended for senior classes in environmental studies or current affairs.

T.S. Causabon is a freelance writer living in Winnipeg.

Moving Images Distribution

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Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364