The Biindigaate Film Festival continued to showcase Aboriginal talent in filmmaking and address important issues at this year’s event in September.
In its third year, the festival’s growth, emergence of success stories and screening of films that highlighted Aboriginal issues makes it Wawatay’s Arts story of the year.
The festival featured the premiere of several films directed by Aboriginal filmmakers in northern Ontario. Among them is Michelle Derosier’s Return to Manomin, a documentary about Derosier and her family’s attempt to revive their rice-harvesting tradition. It was shot in Thunder Bay and near Eagle Lake First Nation, Derosier’s hometown.
There was also the premiere of Eulogy From A White House, a film that featured the team of three Moose Cree members. The writing of Phoebe Sutherland, directing of Jon Kapashesit, and acting of Jocelyn Cheechoo were put on display.
The festival did not shy away from sensitive issues.
The Life You Want, a film produced by the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority, follows a Fort Hope young mother and her journey to overcome her prescription drug addiction. After the screening, there was a Q&A session with the filmmakers and the film’s subject, Doris Slipperjack, where they talked about the prescription drug abuse epidemic that has plagued many northern communities.
Festival programmer Dave Clement said the Q&A was his highlight of the festival and that it is something the committee tried to incorporate more into the program.
“It’s a way of creating dialogue,” he said. “You actually get to hear from the filmmakers themselves and take part in the discussions.”
Some of the films drew heavy emotions from the viewers.
The film Mémère Métisse is about 70-year-old Cecile St. Amant, who refuses to acknowledge her Métis heritage, and her granddaughter’s attempts to understand her denial and possibly open her eyes to the richness of their culture. It moved at least one viewer to tears, who said St. Amant’s story is also the story of his own mother.
“It’s moments like this – having a member of the community come up to you and you see how it impacted them – that makes this festival special,” Derosier, who is also chair of the festival committee, said.
The festival included films from afar, often dealing with themes and struggles similar to those faced by the Indigenous people of Canada.
“It goes back to who is telling the story,” she said. “In the past, First Nations people have not been able to control the image of themselves. With the emerging technology in media arts and the number of Native filmmakers growing, they can now tell their stories and show them to the world.”
Derosier said the festival continues to get bigger every year.
“Our numbers have doubled and tripled compared to some screenings last year,” she said. “Overall, we’re just thrilled with our community. The number of seats that are filled tell us that we’re doing something right.”
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