Vessel: stories from the end of the world by Liam Bursey (MArch '24), finished second out of 162 entrants in this year's GRADflix competition.

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Liam's thesis, Vessel: stories from the edge of the world was successfully defended, December 8, 2023 in front of an examining committee consisting of; Supervisor: Lola Sheppard, Committee member: David Fortin, Internal-external reader: Jaliya Fonseka and External: Crystal Braye.

From the first instances of human inhabitation on the island of Newfoundland, wooden boats have been crucial facilitators to life on The Rock. Those who called this beautiful and savage land home were able to do so as a direct result of hand-built wooden watercraft, fashioned from the land and made for the purpose of existing on the sea. Today, wooden boats have long since given way to the pressures of the industrial age, yet a select few people continue to practice this tradition of boat building for both personal, practical, and heritage preservation reasons. As an object of material culture, wooden boat building is argued to represent an act of placemaking, intertwining the collective identity of communities with the individual identity of boat builders. 

Exploratory filmmaking practice and interviews with Newfoundlanders involved in boat building traditions reflect and refract the socio-cultural conditions that characterize the place. A documentary film is made to express the synergetic relationship between wooden boats, the landscape, and the culture surrounding it. Ultimately, the film is a vessel for the ineffable experiences of Newfoundland as a true expression of place.

GRADflix is an annual competition that gives graduate students an opportunity to communicate their amazing and complex research to a broader public audience. They can create a video, moving slide show or animation of no longer than 60 seconds. There are four prizes of $750 (1st place), $500 (2nd place) and $250 (3rd and 4th place) and two awards of $250 each for Social Impact and People’s Choice. 

Meet all of the 2024 finalists and watch their videos to see more of the fascinating research work being done by students across the University of Waterloo.