Still image from Gentil Cruz passeur de mémoires by Philippe Brulois
August 3rd to 10th, marked the 26th Montreal First Peoples Festival, a week long celebration of Indigenous arts, film, and music in the heart of Mohawk Territory, also known as the Place des Festivals in downtown Montreal.
The festival showcased Indigenous films from around the world and awarded their important work in telling stories. The following Indigenous filmmakers were awarded top prizes by the Montreal First Peoples Festival 2016 Jury.
1. Teueikan Grand Prize: Mekko by Sterlin Harjo (USA)
Among wounded beings, neglected and often despised, like flashes of light on a blocked horizon, we witness great moments of humanity and hope. For weaving the marvels of an ancient legend into the banal contemporary reality of homeless people and for understanding that, atop the rubble of their broken dreams, men still dream.
2. Rigoberta-Menchu Grand Prize: Gentil Cruz, passeur de mémoires by Philippe Brulois (France, UK)
A man built bridges so the ancestral cosmovision of the Kogi people of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta could be better heard by his people. His voice was silenced when drug traffickers murdered him. But he relives in this tribute to his life and work: and we see him once again, a gentle and stubborn activist for the rights of Indigenous peoples, speaking to us of human fellowship beyond races, languages and beliefs.
3. Rigoberta-Menchu Second Prize: The Price of Peace by Kim Webby (New Zealand)
This film captures the offended dignity of an entire people embodied by the ordeal of a Maori activist dragged in court by the unremitting machinations of a colonial structure that represses and condemns the slightest aspiration to freedom. Above all it documents the historical reconciliation that emerged at the conclusion of the painful events.
4. Best Cinematography Prize: Chasing the Light by Blackhorse Lowe (USA)
With its willfully quirky story line and carefree air, Chasing the light offers a consummate art of framing testifying to an unconditional love of cinema. For shots that make the landscape a full-fledged character and for the luminosity- announced in the title- we find in the images of a certain New Mexico artistic bohemia.
5. Best Short Film: Bluey, by Darlene Johnson (Australia)
The director looked right into the darkness of a troubled teenage girl’s soul. For precise and spare writing that gets to the gist of the matter and conveys all the emotional storms of adolescence with pure images where no artifice muffles the impact of the story line
Whether a sister or a cousin, a spouse or a friend, many people are seeking a missing person in the tragic wave that has affected so many Indigenous communities in Canada. For their work capturing the distress but also the courage and determination in their great loss, motivating those who are searching for the body of a beloved person somewhere in the Red River.
7. The Séquences award for Best Documentary: Kome Urue – Los Niños de la selva by Carlos Felipe Montoya (Columbia)
The imperceptible ties uniting forest people in a fusional relation and the invisible spiritual force emerging from this symbiosis inhabit every moment of this sensitive film, abetted by photography attentive to the soul of things and the beauty of faces.
8. The Séquences Special Distinction in the Documentary Category: Hija de la Laguna by Ernesto Cabellos Damián (Peru)
By providing a platform for the people’s voice defending the integrity of natural spaces against greedy gold-mining multinationals, a film has become a social phenomenon, calling for a revolt of consciousness against destructive large-scale projects.
9. Best Animated Film: Returning by Elizabeth LaPensee (USA)
In a digital world, giving a hearing to Métis fiddlers and their melodies takes us to the essentials. Afterwards, our memory screen streams of images from the cosmovisions of travelling peoples conversant with the stars, the tumultuous eddies and fabulous territories where heaven and earth meet. Like electronic beading, Returning presents the twinkling stars our ever-rebellious inner self still dreams of, always longing for roads to travel.
10. APTN 2016: Le Dep by Sonia Bonspille-Boileau (Canada)
In a single year, Sonia Bonspille-Boileau has achieved the exploit of directing her first full-length feature, Le Dep, and making a retrospective documentary on the changes the Oka Crisis brought into Canadian society and in the way Aboriginal peoples in Canada view themselves.
11. Young Hope Award for an Emerging Filmmaker presented by Main Film: Qipisa, by Myna Ishulutak (Canada)
The director goes back to her roots in Pangnirtung, amongst her family and community. It leads her to another journey: to Qipisa, the outpost camp from where they were uprooted.