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Tsilhqot’in Helen Haig-Brown Splashes at Sundance

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When Helen Haig-Brown and six fellow aboriginal filmmakers were asked to make short films for the 10th anniversary of the ImagiNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival, they each received individual instructions that took them out of their comfort zones.

Helen Haig-Brown, for instance, was told to make science-fiction and wasn’t allowed to do her own camera work or editing. And there were other stipulations.

“The guiding rule for the group was that the films needed to use a language other than English, and had to incorporate the theme of patience,” the CBC reported at the time.

For her 10-minute short The Cave, which just wrapped up a week of screenings at the Sundance Film Festival, Haig-Brown put a sci-fi twist on a very unscientific topic: She remade the Tsilhqot’in story of a horseriding hunter who stumbles upon a portal to the afterlife. It is in Tsilhqot’in with English subtitles.

“I knew right away I didn’t want to do space and aliens,” Haig-Brown told the CBC. She said her cousin suggested she retell the Tsilhqot’in story.

“The eerie film had a polished, big-budget feel,” the CBC wrote when the film came out in 2009.

Haig-Brown. a Tsilhqot’in herself, had a dual childhood of sorts, spending time both on the Stone Reserve in British Columbia and in Vancouver, her home base today, according to her bio at ImagineNATIVE’s website. This is not her first foray onto the festival scene. In 2005 Su Naa (My Big Brother) won Best Experimental film at imagineNATIVE. Nikamowin screened at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. She has won numerous awards and is considered a rising star on the aboriginal film scene.

In March, Kristin Dowell, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Oklahoma, will give a multimedia lecture at the New Mexico History Museum on "the rise of experimental video production among a younger generation of Aboriginal media artists whose unconventional approach is redefining Aboriginal media practice in Canada," according to the flier. "She’ll discuss how they address Native identity, land relationships and the imporance of native languages in their films and videos." Some of Haig-Brown’s films will be screened.

Read an interview with Haig-Brown here.