Highway of Tears

Highway of Tears

Client: Finesse Films

Dir. Matt Smiley
Canon 5D / 81 min. / 2014

Since the late 1960s, at least 18 young women — many of them from disadvantaged First Nations communities — have disappeared or been found murdered along the 724-kilometre stretch of Highway 16 in northern British Columbia. None of these cold cases were ever solved until 2012, when a special RCMP investigation was able to link DNA from one of the murder victims to deceased US criminal Bobby Jack Fowler; but this single answer has done little to heal the wounds of Aboriginal communities who have seen dozens of their young women vanish along the "Highway of Tears," victims not only of murderous predators but of the systemic racism of a federal government that keeps them trapped on impoverished reservations and, as critics charge, evinced little interest in apprehending their killers. Narrated by Nathan Fillion, Highway of Tears not only movingly relates the personal stories of the victims and their families, but investigates how the legacy of generational poverty, high unemployment and endemic violence in their communities contributed to their tragic fates — and how contemporary First Nations leaders are striving to cure those ills.

c. 2014

Official Selection - Highlights: 

TIFF HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH - March 6, 2014 (600+ sold out)

Festival History: 

UNBC - FOR THE FAMILIES OF THE VICTIMS & community- March 15, 2014 (400+ sold out)

Private screening/dinner No Name w/ Nathan Fillion - May 1, 2014 (92 guests)

Zonta Film Festival - November 18 - 21 - (2 screenings sold out) 

Malibu Film Festival - December 6, 2014

Vancouver Women in Film Festival - March 7, 2015

"This film would really not exist if it weren’t for Amy Belling and Richard Walden (our two cinematographers). It was important to me for the film to have a woman’s touch and for the women we were interviewing to feel comfortable sharing their stories, which is why Carly (Pope) and I reached out to Amy. She’s a talented cinematographer and extremely helpful in any situation. She set the tone for the film." Linked In, 18 Memorable Moments from my "Highway of Tears" Journey
Matt Smiley (Aug. 12, 2015)

- 2014 HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH FILM FESTIVAL, (January 15, 2014)

"While it is no longer unusual to have documentaries serve as vehicles for political messages, few are told quite as thoroughly or beautifully as this. "
- SOUND ON SIGHT, Justine Smith (May 18, 2015)

"This cinematic dissertation surrounding class and race in Canada is a compelling narrative that Matt Smiley has seamlessly woven throughout Highway of Tears. "
- T-MAK WORLD BLOG, T-Mak (March 5, 2014)

"It's a tough topic for Smiley to take on, and one poignantly conveyed."
- EXAMINER.COM, (March 5, 2014)

"Highway of Tears drives this point home with a slick heart-felt montage of women, à la America’s Most Wanted; of the missing and murdered victims whose remains dot that infamous corridor."
- T-MAK WORLD BLOG, T-Mak (March 5, 2014)


Winner, Best of Fest: Zonta Film Festival 2014

Winner, Best Documentary: Malibu Film Festival 2014

Winner, Best Documentary: Vancouver Women in Film Festival 2015