Place des Festival, an open space in downtown Montreal dedicated to special cultural events, will soon be filled with people celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ art, history, cultures and traditions at the annual First Peoples Festival.
The First Peoples Festival will take place July 30–August 5 in and around the city-block-sized Place des Festivals and at other locations throughout Montreal and across the St. Lawrence River at Kahnwake, Mohawk territory. Now in its 24th year, the festival has grown and matured into a unique international cultural event. There’s nothing quite like it anywhere else in the world.
This year’s festival is packed with things to see, hear, dance to and taste, including a concert launching a new album by rapper Samian, who raps in French and Algonquin; an unparalleled international aboriginal film and video competition juried by a panel chaired by actor Sebastien Ricard; street theater, exhibits, a conference, gastronomy, kino-visual happenings and a parade.
The festival is organized and hosted by Terres en vues /Land Insights, an award-winning nonprofit organization formed in 1990 “to build a bridge between nations,” according to its website. It’s led by André Dudemaine, a founding member along with Daniel Corvec and Pierre Thibeault, and guided by an 11-member board with members from the Mohawk, Huron-Wendat, Abenaki, Innu and Cree nations.
Dudemaine, Innu, has made a name for himself as a producer and cultural facilitator. He took part in founding the Abitibi Témiscamingue International Film Festival. Since the founding of Land InSights he has worked as cultural activities director and was for a time editor-in-chief of the journal Terres en vues.
This year’s festival “radiates vitality,” Dudemaine said, peppered with “bursts of laughter and anger, things dazzling insights and songs, a filmography that is making its way and singular outlooks from many deeply-rooted nations. The impetuosity of youth feeds the fires of our 2014 program.”
Rapper Samian is returning to the festival “in force, and his luminous lyrics sum up the 2014 festival theme: A joyous anger,” Dudemaine said on the festival’s website.
Shauit, who has toured with Samian, is a singer-songwriter and composer from the Native community of Maliotenam in northern Quebec. He sings in French, English and his Native Innu language, and will perform at Club Soda, a music venue in downtown Montreal.
“Shauit delivers a mature, honest and committed form of dancehall reggae with songs that speak of love, hope, respect, peace and the environment,” Dudemaine said.
The “utterly hallucinatory group” Acid Arab and award-winning viola virtuoso Cris Derksen—the latter performing a duet with DJ Shub from A Tribe called Red—will be on stage for an electro-dynamite show.
The festival will present a rich array of films again this year, beginning with a documentary by a new generation director, Kim Obomsawin. La ligne rouge (The Red Line) centers on young aboriginal hockey players for whom sport represents not only their personal best but also a path to a better future for themselves and their communities.
This year’s film offerings—in essence a festival within the festival—include selections from 10 countries, 21 feature-length and mid-length films with 17 in competition. Among the feature film selections are The Activist (France-USA 2013), Drunktown’s Finest (USA 2013, screened at the latest Sundance Festival) and El Regreso (Venezuela, 2013). Documentaries include El impenetrable (launched at the Venice Festival) and Tunteyh, El rumor de la piedra from the new minimalist and Borgesian Argentine school.
Other screenings include Crazy Water by Dennis Allen; films of struggle and protest, such as Le Chant de la fleur, about the Sarayaku community that made oil companies retreat, and Insurgentes, by the veteran Jorge Sanjines, an epic on the history of the indigenous movement that laid the groundwork for the current pluri-national Bolivian state. There are documentaries on art such as Sanansaattaja (Finland 2013), about a Tibetan shepherd who had a shamanic revelation that enabled him to sing the saga of King Gesar (the longest known literary work) and Joikfeber (Norway 2012), about the resurgence of an ancient Sami vocal art form. There is even a horror film: Feed the Devil, co-presented with Fantasia.
Last year, Winter in the Blood, starring Chaske Spencer of Twilight fame, won the festival’s Grand Prize.
There are dozens of other events, including a street theatre performance of the tale Soleil pris au piège (Sun caught in a trap); demonstrations of stone sculpting; an exhibition of huge powwow photos; a marching band with giant masks and marionettes that will lead an international Indigenous Peoples parade through the streets of downtown Montreal, a traffic stopper in all senses of the word.
Most festival events are free, including all of the concerts on the high-tech-equipped stage in Place des Festivals. The plaza itself will be decked out with contemporary-designed teepees and aboriginal-themed sculptures of animals which, when night falls, are illuminated by lighted fountains.
“2014 will mark one more milestone for a festival growing in beauty and resonance,” Dudemaine said.
A schedule of events and more information are available here.