The films that won prizes at the Montreal First Peoples Festival this year had one thing in common: their uncanny ability to take indigenous thought, feeling and experience that are beyond words, and translate these elements to the screen. Below are trailers from the batch of winners.
The Healing Winds, by Joël Montañez, Grand Prize
The Grand Prize winner garnered its award “for this freedom of expression that eliminates borders between genres, while casting light on imperceptible historical imprints that have shaped the present, for fictional craftsmanship that makes the underlying reality of things surge up like a geyser, after cracking open the imaginary worlds veiling it,” said festival organizers upon announcing that The Healing Winds by Joël Montañez, had won top billing “for this sovereign originality in form that, with rigor and sensitivity, makes visible the intergenerational traumas affecting the lives of Inuit communities, beyond the image.”
Tunteyh o el Rumor de las Piedras, by Marina Rubino, Second Prize
“For the osmotic relation it establishes with an indigenous reality too complex to be grasped by an outside eye; for the depiction in film of time lived day by day in a Guarani community, suspended between millennial wisdom and adaptation to the present, for its cinematographic approach full of deference to the mystery of life, at once an ethical posture and an homage to Amerindian thought.”
Le Chant de la Fleur, Rigoberto Menchu Award—Communities
This story of the Sarayaku people struggling against an oil company is a “work that reminds us that the North-South binary is out of date now that threats are global,” the judges said, “that in the 21st century, humanity cannot be divided up according to geography and culture but only by the stance taken by each person: revolt or submission, in the face of economic machines that destroy natural environments and human societies; for a convincing demonstration, with direct evidence, that the words ‘solidarity’ and ‘hope’ still have meaning and that a resolute Indigenous community can succeed in making the most voracious multinationals back down despite their ogreish appetite for destruction.”
Crazywater (Eau de Feu), by Dennis Allen,Rigoberto Menchu Award, Second Place
This film won for its portrayal of a recovery from alcoholism and all the effort that such an endeavor entails.
“For a man, overcoming alcoholism is more than changing his own life; it means wanting to change LIFE itself,” the festival judges said in their comments. “Dennis Allen’s documentary reminds us that while alcohol has become a part of Amerindian history, never for the better, and almost always for the worst, overcoming this intimate enemy is a truly revolutionary process.”
The trailer can be viewed at the National Film Board of Canada’s website.
The Orphan and the Polar Bear, by Neil Christopher, Animation Award
This retelling of a children’s tale won for its “faithful cinematic transposition of a tale from Inuit imagination; for the quality of the animation that fully conveys the dramatic nature of a story that is part of the rich legacy of Northern legends.”
See more information about The Orphan and the Polar Bear.
Sanansaattaja (A Gesar Bard’s Tale), by Donagh Coleman, Lharitgso, Séquences Award for Best Documentary
Sanansaattaja, the story of an illiterate shepherd who brings forth a million-verse epic obtained in shamanic dreams, depicts “an image of Tibet that is rarely, or more likely never seen; a literary work passed down by Shamanic vision, an illiterate shepherd who is a great man of letters in his own culture and who, due to this unusual viewpoint, has a novel view of the contemporary world: the portrait of a Tibetan bard who bears the Saga of King Gesar, a colossal Tibetan epic,” the judges said.
Rhymes for Young Ghouls, by Jeff Barnaby, APTN Award
“You don’t put on white gloves to tell a dark story,” the judges pointed out in their commentary. And no one can accuse filmmaker Jeff Barnaby of that in this movie.
“Putting on his boxing gloves, a young and angry Mi’gmaq filmmaker has given us a lot to see,” the judges said.
Sayachapis, by Mar Y Sol, Young Hope Award/Mainfilm
Another story of survival in a residential school, this one also won the award for best short film for its depiction of how former students grapple with the demons from the experiences that “have left great precipices in the souls of those who endured them,” the judges said.
La tête haute by Christopher Grégoire, Special Favorite from the Fabrique culturelle Télé-Québec
Life is a fight. Not against adversaries but first and foremost against your own weaknesses. A very young filmmaker displays astonishing maturity both in his life as in his short film. The trailer can be seen at the website of Wapikoni Mobile.