St. Thomas University hosted an Indigenous film festival from October 28-30 at Ted Daigle Auditorium.
On the first evening of the festival, the lineup featured films by local and Nova Scotia filmmakers.
The first part of the line-up featured shorts by Wolastoqiyik filmmakers. Two films by filmmakers Natalie and Carr Sappier were shown: MAW and Sage in the City. Multidisciplinary artist Natalie Sappier is also known by her Wolastoqiyik name: Samaqani Cocahq. Filmmaker Carr Sappier was the founder of the Skoden Indigenous Film Festival in British Columbia and now works in New Brunswick.
Natalie Sappier’s play MAW was played in December of 2019 at Memorial Hall in Fredericton. The film, Maw Ktapaci Wetapeksiyin, is a cinematographic reworking of the play, shot in nature with beautiful cinematography. The film features both Natalie Sappier and Kaia Moulton, a young girl from Tobique, as actors.
The hilarious Sage in the City demonstrates the hypocrisy of White people towards Indigenous people, bringing to light the stereotypes that still persist. In 2020, this film received best film and the audience choice award at the NB Cellphone Challenge.
Three of Tara Audibert’s films were shown: I am the warrior, Walhunt The Devil: Six Short Stories told my Mom and Final Mystery of the Fireball. Audibert is a co-founder of the Ni’gweg Collective, an organization which connects Indigenous culture and modern technology. The group has developed an online storytelling app called Nitap.
Audibert’s beautiful animated films create magical worlds to discuss difficult topics such as residential schools. She also participates in contemporary historiography in films like Walhunt in which she uses narration from everyday people to comment on Wolastoqiyik culture.
The main event was Bretten Hannam’s feature film, titled Wildhood, which came out in 2021. The film was nominated in six categories at the Canadian Screen Awards, including best original screenplay and best director for Hannam who received Best Atlantic Director and the Michael Weir Award
for Best Atlantic Screenwriting at the Atlantic International Film Festival.
Hannam is a Two-Spirit L’nu (Mi’kmaq) feature filmmaker from Nova Scotia. His previous films are North Mountain from 2015 and Wildfire, a short film from 2019 that inspired Wildhood.
In Wildhood, the main character, Lincoln, discovers that his Mi’kmaw mother is alive and he and his younger brother go looking for her to begin a new life. During their road trip, they meet Pasmay, a powwow dancer, who joins their wanderings. This is a beautiful film where the young men discover themselves, their Mi’kmaw culture and their sexuality.
Actors Phillip Lewitski, who plays Link, won Best Actor at the Image + Nation LGBTQ Film Festival and was nominated in the best actor category at the Canadian Screen Awards. He is an actor of mixed and Mohawk origin. A member of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation near Gatineau, Québec, actor Joshua Odjick was won the best supporting actor category at the Canadian Screen Awards in 2021.
The young Avery Winters-Anthony rounds out the trio. Winters-Anthony’s first film as a young actor was Hannam’s Wildfire.
This festival held at St. Thomas University debuted in 2020 with a premiere of a film by Alanis Obomsawin. Although the crowd was small on the first night of the 2022 edition, let’s hope it continues to bring Indigenous voices to the forefront in the future.
Sophie M. Lavoie is a member of the NB Media Co-op editorial board and writes on arts and culture for the NB Media Co-op.