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VICELAND RISE Series: A Conversation With The Indigenous Women Hosts

VICELAND recently premiered a documentary-style series: Here is a conversation with VICELAND RISE director Michelle Latimer and host Sarain Fox.

The high-energy alternative media cable network VICELAND recently premiered a documentary-style series titled RISE. In the VICELAND RISE series, filmmaker Michelle Latimer (Métis/Algonquin) and host Sarain Fox (Anishinabe) jump straight into the heart of Native resistance in nine episodes.

In addition to the premiere on the VICELAND cable network, RISE was also an official selection of the Sundance Film Festival, and premiered earlier this month to rave reviews and standing ovations.

RISE poster for Sundance Film Festival by Cheyenne Randall

'RISE' was an official selection of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Artwork by Cheyenne Randall.

The first two episodes showcase the struggles faced by Native youth and #NoDAPL water protectors at the front lines of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

In an interview with ICMN, Latimer and Fox spoke to the importance OF VICELAND RISE and of having an indigenous voice for Native youth that they say while no longer be silenced.


How did this VICELAND RISE project come about?

Latimer: Eddy Moretti, who is one of the owners of VICE, came to me. It was his idea. I was blown away that a mainstream media network wanted to tell a series of indigenous resistance stories. As an independent filmmaker, it would have taken me 10 years to make these nine films. To get this kind of support to do this in a year and a half and to have our stories told on such a huge platform, I was like, "I'm all in; let's do this!"

To Sarain Fox: How did you get involved as host?

Fox: I am an old school VICE fan. Living in New York City, I used to seek out the magazine which was always free. I saw the audition listed, then I couldn't find it so I assumed it was gone. Someone reached out to me and I auditioned.

I was driving through Algonquin Park when I received the call and it all started from there. There was a whole bunch of natives of the car when I answered the call. We were all very excited.

Latimer: When I saw Sarain's audition tape, she had to stand on the road and interview strangers. She talked to these skater dudes and asked them what they thought of indigenous issues. They were like, "I don't know, man." By the end of it, she had them talking about indigenous issues. Her last words were, "Ride or die, man!" I said, "Okay, that's the girl!"

What has the process been?

Latimer: VICELAND sent us to different communities for the last year and a half. We were really given the agency to tell stories from an indigenous point of view as well as focus on the stories that we wanted to focus on. We were also able to build our team in respect to that.

They've been behind the series one hundred percent. We just had our premiere at Sundance and VICELAND flew in a bunch of water protectors from Standing Rock and Oak Flats to be there. For them to realize the importance of having our community together and supporting this is invaluable.

A still from ‘RISE’ by Michelle Latimer, an official selection of the Special Events program at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute - photo by Christopher Yapp.

A still from VICELAND ‘RISE’ by Michelle Latimer, an official selection at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

To Michelle Latimer: What do you hope to accomplish?

Latimer: I am hopeful that people will mobilize and take action. Not just on the front lines, but within their own communities. Having a network like VICELAND, which is broadcast in over 44 territories across the world, people who are unaware of indigenous issues will be able to learn. That is amazing it is only through this narrative through which we can change things while claiming our stories.

To Sarain Fox: What are your thoughts on this series?

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Fox: I was very lucky growing up that I had role models such as filmmaker Jennifer Podemski. Those moments where I wasn't sure about my artistry, Jennifer had my back. I came into this work as a dancer at 14 years old. Jennifer hired me for the National Aboriginal Achievement awards. My mother is also a healer and a bad ass. We don't have indigenous role models in the mainstream.

What I am so excited for through this series, our young people will have a platform that is so cool in their world. For them to see themselves, on a network like this as well as other young people standing up and fighting, this is powerful and impactful.

These are the type of things that empower young people and keep them here on this earth.

I've watched the first two episodes of VICELAND RISE and they are brilliantly raw and in-your-face. Can you comment on this?

Latimer: I love the fact that you say these are raw and in-your-face. I grew up watching a lack of representation all around me. This made things confusing and difficult as a filmmaker to empower myself. I did not have confidence in my ability or confidence in my own voice as an indigenous person. I often felt under-educated and as though I couldn't compete in the mainstream. I'd never been in an art gallery until I was 19 or 20 years old.

I felt embarrassed of where I came from. This was mostly due to education. Having opportunities like this to extend our outreach and uplift each other and to work together has been the most amazing learning curve to me as an artist.

Sometimes this is the door that needs to open for young people to let them know they have the facility. I feel so lucky that I will be able to open doors for people in my community.

I've always been the indigenous filmmaker attending indigenous festivals, but we need to be so much more as well. I am very grateful and humbled to have this opportunity to open doors for others. It's also worth noting there are a lot of non-indigenous crew working on this series and they are super focused on maintaining respect to native people.

Fox: I am so grateful that we were able to honor the people who willingly gave us their most important and precious stories to take care of. I heard it again and again from people asking us to please be careful and take care of their stories. I never doubted giving people I trust because I knew the stories are in Michelle's hands.

For me, what I think is so beautiful about VICELAND RISE is that everyone in this film that we have crossed paths with, their voice has been amplified and they are going to see that. We may have been silenced for the past 100 years or more... But I can say with all of my consciousness and my entire being, it is no longer possible to silence us.

I am really excited for what this means and I'm ready to stand behind the voice of our young people. I am excited for what they have to say, they are revolutionaries.


What's to come?

Latimer: I don't really know as I've never really operated having these type of goals. I usually just follow my intuition and curiosity. This has worked so far. I really hope we have a future, we are only at the beginning. That said Canada has just approved three pipelines and Trump signed executive orders for the Keystone XL and Dakota access pipelines.

I would love to continue this. I am also working independently on a adaptation of Thomas King's book The Inconvenient Indian and I'm also making a short film about sex trafficking in the Bakken regions.

Fox: I've been having a great time in the media world but I will also be going back to the dance world for a little bit. My body is aching for that. I need to get back into my body. Starting in May I'll be going into another project with Jennifer Podemski for APTN based on repatriation of sacred items.

For more information on VICELAND RISE, visit the VICELAND RISE website.

Follow Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) - ICMN’s Arts and Entertainment, Pow Wows and Sports Editor - Follow @VinceSchilling