Director Sean Penn's film, The Pledge, featured Jack Nicholson as a Nevada sheriff who retires and makes a pledge to the mother of a murdered girl that he will find her killer. Jerry, the sheriff, believes the police have arrested the wrong man, and eventually buys an old gas station in the area of the murders so he can search for the real killer.
The film boasted a well-known cast that included Benicio Del Toro, Aaron Eckhart, Helen Mirren, Robin Wright, Vanessa Redgrave, and Mickey Rourke. Based on a novella, Das Versprechen: Requiem auf den Kriminalroman (The Pledge: Requiem for the Detective Novel) by Swiss author Friedrich Dürrenmatt, the film was released in 2001. While it didn't perform well at the box office, it was nominated for several awards including the coveted Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.
Although the lure of a lower budget has inspired numerous filmmakers to move their shooting locations to Canada, Penn chose Kanaka Bar near Lytton as the location for much of the filming because of the area's isolation and small town feel. Out of the way, this hauntingly beautiful area of the Fraser Canyon can appear bleak and desolate when socked-in and overcast.
The Kanaka Inn, which doubled for Ray's Bar and Grill, a prominent feature in the setting, is also styled like an American bar which is appealing to American directors because it's a feature that isn't often seen in Canada. The crew took over the Inn for over six weeks to shoot the movie. Visitors to the Kanaka Inn can still see signed pictures of the movie's cast hanging on the wall.
Besides the immediate area around Kanaka Bar, other locations nearby were also utilized for the production. The Botanie Road was used for filming the initial crime scene, and filming of street scenes in the town took place in nearby Lillooet. Areas around Merritt, the Okanagan and Vancouver were also used.
Located between Boston Bar and Lytton in the Fraser Canyon, Kanaka Bar is home to the Kanaka Bar First Nation, a community of the Nlaka'pamux people. The word Kanaka is an old Chinook trade language word for a Hawaiian. In their own Hawaiian language, this term referred to a 'local guy'. Many Hawaiians came to the mainland United States and Canada to work during the Gold Rush for the Hudson's Bay Company. The term is not derogatory and even today it refers to someone of Hawaiian ethnic origin. Many families of mixed Hawaiian and First Nations heritage still live in the area. Kanaka Bar takes its name from Kanakas who staked claims or worked for the fur company in the area.