Whom would you choose to tell the story of your culture? Someone who has spent their life in it or someone from the outside looking in? Chances are it would be the former, and Dreamspeakers Film Festival offers aboriginal filmmakers an opportunity to do just that.
“Aboriginal cultures have been bent out of shape in the last 100 years and they’re coming back into their own, so I think these films can show that … we’re becoming whole again,” says Dreamspeakers vice president, Murray Jurak, noting the shift has stemmed from aboriginal people embracing a newfound sense of pride in their culture.
“I remember when people would be ashamed of who they were. They wanted to be someone else, they wanted to be different, they wanted to be mainstream. Now people have no problem being aboriginal or Métis or Indian. There might be a little bit of stigma, but it’s not the way it was 30 years ago.”
Not so long ago, there were very few aboriginal filmmakers not only in Canada, but around the world, which meant someone else took the reins in telling their stories. Jurak points out there were so few aboriginal filmmakers in the world, that all of them could have fit into the Dreamspeakers office when the festival began in 1993.
“It was empty. We had everybody in the world here at that time,” Jurak says, adding that meant about five or six filmmakers as opposed to the hundreds of directors in the industry today. “People are making their own media. It’s the same with you; it’s the same with print media. Everyone’s getting involved, and that’s a good thing. They’re telling their own stories … they’re not just having someone else tell the story. If they don’t feel like their story’s being done proper justice, they’ll go make their own, and that’s a beautiful thing.”
The stories told through this year’s film lineup don’t focus solely on any particular group. Jurak lists off a few in particular, including Shouting Secrets, a film examining the contrast between urban and rural aboriginal people and the struggle to fit into both worlds; The Human Zoo, a disturbing film about aboriginal people in South America and even Inuit people from Canada who were put into zoos in Europe; Hi-Ho Mistahey!, a local film with a message for youth that they can make a difference in society, no matter how impossible that may seem; Minerita, the story of women who risk their lives in the silver mines of Bolivia and must resort to carrying sticks of dynamite in order to defend themselves, as well as films such as Craters of the Moon, which features local members of the aboriginal film community, but does not necessarily tell an aboriginal story.
“Now we’re seeing people branch out; we’re not just saying, ‘Well, I’m an Indian so I have to tell an Indian story,” Jurak adds of films like Craters of the Moon. “I’m a filmmaker, I can tell a story whether it’s about my culture or it’s not about my culture. I’m a storyteller.”
“We are an international film festival and it’s always nice to have films from around the world, but it’s always nice to have the local flavour,” adds Dreamspeakers CEO Helen Calahasen. “Then we have an audience that comes out to see the actors from their hometowns or the people they know they want to see up on the big screen, so they come out and support that.”
Until Sat, May 31
Metro Cinema at the Garneau