Wednesday, May 29, 2024
May 29, 2024

Indigenous issues spotlighted at film festival


Salt Spring Film Festival Society

Films by and about Indigenous people will be in the spotlight at this weekend’s Salt Spring Film Festival at Gulf Islands Secondary School.

Cowichan cultural worker and archaeology consultant Harold Joe from Duncan will be joined by his prolific co-director and co-producer Leslie Bland from Victoria to present two films at the festival: A Cedar Is Life features Indigenous Elders from Cowichan to Haida Gwaii exploring the centrality of the cedar tree to West Coast First Nations; while Tzouhalem brings to life the legendary Cowichan chief who became the most powerful 19th-century Indigenous leader in the Pacific Northwest.

Salt Spring filmmaker Ryan Haché will be joined by co-director Ritchie Hemphill from Victoria, who was raised on the Tsulquate reserve, to present their delightful film Tiny. Using stop-motion claymation, Tiny recounts the charming and occasionally harrowing stories of the unusual float-home childhood of Ritchie’s mother, Colleen Hemphill (AKA Cluya’gilakw), founder of the Indigenous newspaper Awa’kwis, who is now the chief negotiator for the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Nations and who will join us from Port Hardy.

Tiny is part of the aquatic shorts program Salish Sea Stories, which also features Freshwater Salt Spring, directed by local photographer and filmmaker Alex Harris. Produced by John Millson of the Salt Spring Island Water Preservation Society, Freshwater Salt Spring features an interview with Xwaaqw’um land and water defender Sulatiye’ Maiya Modeste, project coordinator for the Stqeeye’ Learning Society, who was also an advisor to the film. This program concludes with Uncharted Waters, directed by Molly Dennis, which profiles environmentally conscious young people from the Squamish Nation (AKA Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw)and their non-Indigenous peers collaborating on a community-led mapping project to protect Howe Sound (AKA Atl’ka7tsem).

In Eric Janvier’s NFB short film Heartbeat of a Nation, a young Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation father patiently teaches his young son how to make a caribou-skin drum. Inter-generational sharing of traditional Indigenous knowledge is also depicted in Fritz Mueller’s Voices Across the Water, about the art and craft of canoe building, which will be presented by producer, writer and co-editor Teresa Earle from Whitehorse. Traditionally done only by men, such as Alaskan Tlingit master carver Wayne Price, canoe building is now also being taught to young women, including Inland Tlingit artist and apprentice Violet Gatensby from Carcross, Yukon, who is featured in this gorgeous NFB co-production which graces the cover of the festival’s program guide.

Declared extinct in the 1950s but still very much alive, the Sinixt Nation’s 65-year struggle for recognition is documented in Ali Kazimi’s Beyond Extinction: Sinixt Resurgence. Meanwhile, marginalized people from various communities seek recognition in B.C. museums and official archives in the NFB production Unarchived, which includes interviews with Kwagiulth artist Lou-ann Neel and Tahltan Central Government archivist Sandra Marion, and which will be presented by Vancouver filmmakers Hayley Gray and Elad Tzadok.

Sue Biely and Josli Rockafella from Vancouver’s Story Money Impact, which seeks to increase the impact of Canadian documentaries, will be on hand to highlight Tamo Campos and Jasper Snow-Rosen’s Klabona Keepers, about the Tahltan Nation’s struggle to protect the Klabona Sacred Headwaters from the mining industry in northern B.C.; as well as Cam MacArthur’s Before They Fall, about the Fairy Creek blockade to protect unceded Pacheedaht Territory from the logging industry on Vancouver Island, where a number of Salt Spring residents were arrested.

The Salt Spring Film Festival takes place this Friday through Sunday at Gulf Islands Secondary School. Passes are available at the ArtSpring box office (250-537-2102) or online at Subsidized passes are available by request.

For the full screening schedule, pick up a program guide or visit

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