A traveling silver screen presenting short films by Indigenous filmmakers brought Kanehsata’kehró:non to a unique viewing under the stars late last week.
The event organized by Wapikoni was part of the organization’s latest “Cinema on Wheels” tour, set to end on September 1, which screened July 15 and 16.
“When I came into this position, I had a vision to create not only an awareness for non-Indigenous people, but also a meeting of cultures for different nations,” explained Wapikoni’s regional tour coordinator, Tayka Raymond.
“We have close to 1,300 short films in our collection to pick out from and all of them show the wealth and diversity of Indigenous cultures,” she added.
With a total of 36 screenings scheduled in 21 Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, Wapikoni is determined to showcase stories that reflect the multi-faceted realities of Onkwehón:we cultures.
Assisted by Kanehsata’kehró:non, the staff stationed a camper van equipped with a screen to project the films on, outside the community’s Longhouse.
“When I was asked who the best person to speak to would be, I right away thought this would be a good event for the Longhouse to take on,” said community member Al Harrington. “This was a great way of getting together safely in a community-based setting.”
On both evenings, attendees were invited to set down their lawn chairs, grab a bag of fresh popcorn, and enjoy a thoughtfully curated program of 12 Onkwehón:we short films.
“The vision we had for this tour was not only to get people to know about the films Indigenous youth and elders are making, but it’s also about pushing forward the sovereign narrative,” expressed Raymond, who is Métis from Treaty 1 in Manitoba.
Wapikoni’s mobile cinema is only one component of the organization’s overall mission to spotlight Indigenous stories and talent.
While the team’s van already converts into a movie screen, it additionally serves as a portable recording and filmmaking studio that cruises across the country visiting Onkwehón:we communities.
“The work is also really about motivating people in communities to explore the sharing of the stories that they have to tell,” said Raymond. “The screening tours are just branches of what we do, the tree of Wapikoni is to facilitate making films.”
As a film buff and actor himself, Harrington was pleased to see familiar names pop up on the screen throughout the viewings.
“It blew my mind to see all the names of directors I knew and see what they are all capable of creating,” he said. “These kinds of films really need a higher exposure in the media world.”
It’s with this goal in mind that Wapikoni’s coordinator emphasized the importance of Onkwehón:we reclaiming the ownership of their narratives.
“This is about being able to give space for Indigenous people to actually speak about what we want and need,” she said. “Between us we can make decisions, we know what the stakes are, and we know what the issues are.”
Before the travelling caravan heads east to the Maritimes, Kahnawa’kehró:non can also look forward to a screening planned for August 21 and 22.
Laurence Brisson Dubreuil, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door