The Lake / nx̌aʔx̌aʔitkʷ
Opera Documentary Film

A ground-breaking cross-cultural collaboration

The first Canadian opera to be shot specifically as a film

The Lake / nx̌aʔx̌aʔitkʷ is an inspiring music documentary about an extraordinary friendship between two singers & teachers – Heather Pawsey of Vancouver’s Astrolabe Musik Theatre, and Delphine Derickson of Westbank First Nation – and the groundbreaking cultural collaboration in which they decolonized a historic Canadian opera by incorporating Syilx / Okanagan perspectives. The film brings to life all of the Indigenous and non-Indigenous storytelling, music-making and dancing from the original production, alongside a bracingly honest oral history of the successes and failures of the project. It’s a film about a journey that is, in itself, a continuation of that journey. Filled with laughter and tears, and alive to the rhythms of water and wind, The Lake / nx̌aʔx̌aʔitkʷ celebrates the magic that’s possible when people start to really listen to one another.

The Lake / nx̌aʔx̌aʔitkʷ is a Telus Original, produced with the support of the Vancouver Foundation, the Canada Council for the Arts, the BC Arts Council, Creative BC & Amplify BC, the Central Okanagan Foundation, the Deux Mille Foundation, the Hamber Foundation, the SOCAN Foundation and the Ambache Charitable Trust, and with the sponsorship of Quails’ Gate Estate Winery, Westbank First Nation, Turning Point Ensemble, and the Canadian Music Centre in BC. The Lake / nx̌aʔx̌aʔitkʷ documentary had its world premiere in Montréal on March 24, 2022, as part of Le FiFa International Festival of Films on Art.


Delphine Derickson

Associate Producer / Subject

This film is the most exciting collaboration, historically, educationally, and culturally which will take people to a magical place they have never been before. People will feel, see and hear the true meaning of reality. Through the powerful blending of cultures through the magic of traditional song, opera and music, and microcosm of our early oral history, together we will build a connection and shift participants’ resonance, and change lives. How the process will resonate with the co-creation of this transformation together to make a difference to individuals, historically and the world at large. It will bring a richer awareness and appreciation of the local history, based on education and entertainment. It will open many doors of collaboration and appreciation of local cultures, also including the importance of Okanagan history blended with European history. This powerful celebration of cultures will be remembered for a long time to come. It is a blending of cultures that has been overdue. We must stand together as one, on our great land, and all our connections in the universe.

Heather Pawsey

Producer / Subject

I give thanks to my incredible colleague, artist, knowledge-keeper, elder, friend and teacher Delphine Derickson, who has changed my life, my art, and the way that I think about music. I am so grateful to have been invited to walk with her as a “little brother” (who, as I understand it from Delphine, are Europeans or, like me, people with European ancestry) on this incredible journey we’ve been taking together musically, artistically, creatively since 2012. A decade later, I am joyful that we’re still walking together, and respectfully acknowledge the responsibility I hold to carry the things that have been taught to me into all the work that I do as an artist and as a human being. I am equally grateful to our exceptional director John Bolton, who not only agreed to travel with us but has unswervingly navigated the bumps and twists along the way, and been the most true travelling companion. “Journeys sometimes take you where you didn’t expect to go,” I wrote in 2014, in programme notes for the live performances of The Lake / nx̌aʔx̌aʔitkʷ. Little did I know. Here we are now in 2022, a full decade since that first meeting, and what we felt back then was the culmination of our dream turned out, in fact, to be only the beginning. I’m privileged and honoured to share our ongoing journey with you.

John Bolton

Producer / Director

It has been one of the great honours of my life to have been invited by Delphine Derickson (of Westbank First Nation) and Heather Pawsey (of Astrolabe Musik Theatre) to produce and direct this film about the 2014 production of The Lake / nx̌aʔx̌aʔitkʷ. I already had a relationship with Heather, but I didn’t have a relationship with Delphine, so I took several trips to Westbank First Nation to build trust with not only Delphine but also Corinne Derickson and Jordan Coble (both of whom also appear in the film). One of the unique aspects of the film is that enough time has passed since the 2014 production that all of the participants have gained real perspective on what they think they did right, and what they think they did wrong. In the same way, enough time has passed since I started making this film that I also have real perspective. I’ll admit that there have been times when I’ve wondered if I – as a non-Indigenous filmmaker – was the right person for this job, and yet Delphine, Corinne and Jordan have given me the most incredible encouragement and support throughout. While I know that there’s more I could have done, and have yet to do, to do right by their generosity, I also believe that the principles of respect, responsibility, consent and reciprocity have been upheld throughout the process, and will continue to be upheld. In many ways, I feel less like I was invited to make a movie, and more like I was invited to participate in a cross-cultural collaboration that had been happening for a long time. The great theme of The Lake / nx̌aʔx̌aʔitkʷ is listening, and I hope that everyone who watches it listens to what everyone in it has to say.

Production Stills

All photos by Maggie MacPherson


Hamber Foundation
Hamber Foundation
Hamber Foundation
Deux Mille Foundation
Ambache Charitable Trust
BC Arts Council
Hamber Foundation
Hamber Foundation
Westbank First Nation


Quail's Gate
Westbank First Nation
Turning Point Ensemble
Canadian Music Centre