Storytellers take up the camera
A major component of the First Peoples' Festival was the Aboriginal film
screenings and workshop which cumulated in an awards ceremony on June 20 at
the NFB Theatre in Montreal.
The film screenings began June 10 and ran through June 21. Stars big and
small twinkled on the Canadian National Film Board's screens.
The Canadian premiere of lauded director Chris Eyre's newest film "Edge of
America" was held on June 11. Eyre had been invited to the festival to take
part in a week-long retrospective of his works but was unable to attend.
Land InSights organizers Andre Dudemaine, who still wore the blue and white
T-shirt from his leg of the Olympic torch run as it progressed past the
outdoor encampment site in downtown Montreal just hours before, and Myra
Cree opened the ceremonies.
"Edge of America" won the first place Teueikan prize in the Creation
category at the First Peoples' Festival Film and Video Awards. "Edge of
America" centers on the Lady Warriors, a Lakota girl's basketball team on
Pine Ridge, coached by a "new to the rez" African American. The plot deals
with the issues of race relations, ghetto rage and conquering sprit.
Lead actor James McDaniel was present to accept the award with an impromptu
but heartfelt speech. McDaniel said he was amazed by how professional and
polished his novice co-stars were and what a joy it was to get to know
them. Realizing that the film would never win crossover acclaim McDaniel
joked "When you make a movie with an African American man in the lead and
all first-time Indian actresses as the cast - well then you certainly have
hit Hollywood gold!"
Taking second place in the Creation category was "On the Corner" by
Nathaniel Geary. Lead star Alex Rice was present to accept the award and
gave a teary-eyed thank you for being allowed to tell the story of the
complexities of Aboriginal youth living in an urban nightmare.
The Rigoberta Menchu Tom Foundation first place prize in the Communities
category went to "Angakkuitt", by Zacharias Kunuk, which featured eight
Inuit tales about healing and traveling with shamans. Second place went to
"Whispering in our Hearts", by director and scriptwriter Mitch Torres.
"Whispering in our Hearts" also won Best Documentary and Torres, an
Australian Aboriginal, was present to accept both awards. Overcome with
emotion Torres choked back tears long enough to relate the story of the
massacre at Mowla Bluff that took the lives of many of her relatives. She
was proud of her documentary because of the attention it received from the
international community which forced the government of Australia to admit
the massacre had occurred.
The annual film awards celebrated the significance of Native peoples'
stories and the importance of being able to tell their own stories in their