Still from Wawatay | Image source: Montreal First Peoples Festival
Into its 29th year, the Montreal First Peoples Festival runs for a week in August and is established as one of the first and largest festivals in North America celebrating Indigenous cinema, arts, and culture. The festival was originally founded by Land In Sights- whose mission is to cultivate Indigenous arts within the metropolis of Montreal as a means to recognize and honour Indigenous cultures within the city and the surrounding area. The Montreal First Peoples Festival screens films from all over the world made by Indigenous people for Indigenous people. Each year the festival honours the best in Indigenous cinema. Here are the most compelling Prize Winners of 2019’s Montreal First Peoples Festival:
Best Animated Film
Ben Kicknosway and Neil Affleck for Wawatay (Canada): Neil Affleck is a professor at Seneca College in Toronto where he teamed up with Ben Kicknosway to create Wawatay for Nuit Blanche 2018. Affleck first consulted with the student organization First Peoples at Seneca to tell the story of the northern lights with Anishinaabe and Woodlands style symbolism. Wawatay is another 4 minute film best described as; “what the Anishinaabe sees in the sky.”
APTN Award for an Indigenous Filmmaker in Canada with a Special Accomplishment in the Previous Year
Darlene Naponse for Falls Around Her (Canada): An Anishinaabe writer, director and video artist from Atikameksheng Anishnawbek, Darlene debuts her most notable film Fall Around Her about a famous singer who returning to her roots so she can reevaluate her life. The film screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, and opened imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival later that same year, winning the Air Canada Audience Choice Award.
Main Film Indigenous Emerging Filmmaker Award
Christophe Yanuwana Pierre for Unti, les origines (Guyana): Christophe Yanuwana Pierre is a Kali’na activist in Guyana who founded Jeunesse autochtone de Guyane meaning; Native Youth of Guyana; to advocate for the rights and respect of Indigenous people in South America. He is also outspoken about the effects of colonialism and land theft of the French government. in Unti, les origines he explores his identity along the Caribbean Sea to the mountains of Tumuc-Humac and touches on an ecological disaster threatening the Maroni River.
Best Canadian Short Film Presented by Radio Canada
Jonathan Elliott for Even in the Silence (Canada): Jon Elliott is a Tuscarora filmmaker from Six Nations in Ontario. He has worked on many independent projects that have been screened at ImagineNative Film Festival and APTN. Even in the Silence is a beautifully edited 4 minute film that has a poignant soundtrack which emotionally conveys the healing journey the main character must go on after a tragic incident she is responsible for. The tragedy is slowly revealed through cuts between times of contentment with the main character and her lover; how her drinking problem affected their relationship; and then snowballs into the incident itself.
Best Sequences Documentary Award
César Alejandro Jaimes, Juan Pablo Polanco (Colombia) for Lapü: César is known for being inspired by the study death and dreamlike experiences, inspiring his first feature debut, Lapü. The film follows a Wayúu woman, Doris, as she has a dream about a deceased cousin. After consulting with a community Elder, she must complete an ancient custom where they exhume the body to cleanse the deceased cousin’s bones so she may pass onto the spirit realm.