This article was originally published on Reality Sandwich in mid_January of 2013.
On New Years Eve of 1999, artist Daniel Northcott and his friend scaled The Lions, an iconic pair of peaks that rise some 5400 feet above Vancouver, BC. As the first sunrise of the third millennium brightened the sky over Daniel’s beloved hometown, the twenty year old could see with prophetic clarity what he wanted to do with the third decade of his life: he would travel the world with a video camera and the intention to weave a story of global unity, cosmic interconnection, and wonder. Along with video footage, he would collect stones, pottery shards, and other relics that reflected what he called “orbicularity,” his unique cosmology based upon circles within circles.
Daniel’s wanderlust had recently been ignited by his first trip abroad. JAfter defiantly leaving high school just one month before graduation, he had spent a semester teaching English in Taiwan with his older sister Erin, an experience that had drawn the siblings closer than they had been in years. Despite differences, Dan and Erin—son and daughter of Canadian folk singer Tom Northcott—shared a love of music, learning, and travel, along with a profound trust in each other that would prove to be fateful.
Of the two, Dan had always been the dreamer. His mother remembers him as a gifted “star child” with an insatiable curiosity and a deep connection to the natural world that compelled him to roam barefoot through the forests and meadows surrounding his rural childhood home. Even when his Y2K epiphany took him further afield to Egypt, Cambodia, Guatemala, Japan, and dozens of other countries, the self-described “tragic romantic nomad and existential documentarian” preferred to walk with the damp earth beneath his feet and the warm sand between his toes. His greatest wish was to reconnect all of humanity with the Earth, and to expose the half-hidden patterns that permeate the universe and bind everything together.
So intense was Daniel’s fascination with symbolic forms that it led him to tempt fate and provoke the gods. After seven years of traveling and filming, Dan found himself on the Yucatan peninsula, in an ancient Mayan burial cave, amidst the remains of women and children who had been killed in ritual sacrifice. “Those bones are charged with bad vibes,” his friend warned. “People who have taken these bones home…have gotten sick.” Unfortunately, Dan had already become captivated by a small, calcified sphere that represented his orbicular worldview. He couldn’t resist the urge to drop the bone into his pocket, surreptitiously.
It would be the last souvenir Daniel would collect. Months after returning from Mexico, he was diagnosed with leukemia—cancer of the bone marrow—and given three to six months to live. During that time his body grew weaker, but his spirit remained strong, as did his will to live and to find and return the bone on his way to finishing his epic film. With characteristic openness and bravery, Dan documented in raw detail his struggle with mortality. His hope for recovery lasted until the end, which came on the summer solstice of 2009, eleven months after his diagnosis and six months before his 30th birthday. As per his request, he was given a green burial, wrapped in a simple cotton shroud.
In his will, Daniel bequeathed over 1000 hours worth of unedited film footage to his sister, along with a request to finish his as-yet-untitled opus. Despite assurances from Dan that her intuition would direct her, Erin was so overwhelmed that nearly three years passed before she felt ready to take on the project. When she did, however, the pieces began to fall magically into place. Through a producer friend in Los Angeles, Erin connected with Ojai-based Elevate Studios, whose founder Mikki Willis was moved to tears by what he saw and learned about Dan and his vision. Soon thereafter came the title, which had been hidden in plain sight at the end of Dan’s final film sketch and woven throughout his life: Be Brave.
It was a message that Erin herself needed to hear. In another synchronicity of the time, she found the mysterious bone that may have ended Dan’s mission and life. Instead of destroying it in turn, however, the family decided to honor Dan’s desire to return the bone to its initial resting place. Shortly after the long-awaited winter solstice of 2012, Erin left Vancouver for the land of the ancient Maya with a small film crew and a deep desire to finish what her beloved brother had started.
The rest of the story remains unwritten.
Before his passing, Dan predicted that “a bunch of allies would come together to complete his film.” Perhaps he foresaw the talented Elevate team, or maybe he imagined hundreds of like-minded people from all over the world. The project is now being crowd-funded through Indiegogo, where Erin and her family hope to raise $183,000 to edit and market the film. If you feel moved by Dan’s story and inspired by his message, please consider contributing to the campaign to turn the late filmmaker’s dream into a reality.
“The film I want to make in the future will speak every language, cross every country, all of time, and make the journey personal to anyone who watches it. Please help me… Join me and learn what you already know, once and for all. We are the same. We share the same origin. The same apparatus… flesh, bones, blood.”
Postscipt: The indiegogo campaign was successful in raising the required funds. The Elevate team is now working on the film with hopes to complete it by the end of 2013. Stay tuned!