Flush from the Toronto International Film Festival’s showing of Wapawekka, Métis filmmaker Danis Goulet has brought the 16-minute short to the Sundance Film Festival, where it is screening several times this week.
The movie highlights the generational rift between a traditional Cree father and his urbanized, hip-hopping son during a trip to the family’s isolated cabin in northern Canada. The English portions are subtitled in Cree, and the Cree sections are subtitled in English.
Although Goulet is Métis and the characters are Cree, the film was based on her experiences growing up, the filmmaker told CBC News. Set in Saskatchewan, the film was shot at Lake Wapawekka, near where she was raised.
“My dad grew up on the land, hunting, trapping, speaking Cree as a first language, and I live in Toronto and don’t speak much Cree at all,” Goulet says in the film’s production notes. “The story is tragic on one hand, but I also tried to convey a sense of promise—a beauty in the way that culture evolves.”
Her father, uncle and cousin acted in the film, and her aunt and mother cooked for the cast and crew during the five-day shoot. Just as the film’s setting and circumstances reflected her childhood and her own generational divide, the casting grew out of that and her movie-making philosophy.
“My family ended up totally involved in the project as the art department, caterers, child care, and actors,” she said in a press release. Thus family members Keith and Josh Goulet made their acting debuts, though cousin Josh is a hip-hop artist in his own right.
“Lately, I’ve been fascinated by finding the territory that exists between documentary and fiction films, and I had always planned to use non-actors,” Goulet said. “At a certain point, it just seemed to make sense to cast family members as the characters were all inspired by them in one way or another.”
See the trailer here. This is Goulet’s second time at Sundance; she debuted there in 2004 with her short Spin. She also has to her credit Divided by Zero, a short that premiered in 2006 at the Message Sticks Film Festival at the Sydney Opera House in Australia.