At the recent Banff Television Festival, the biggest broadcasting event of its kind in Canada, Rezolution Pictures was astounded to learn that they won the award for Best Canadian Aboriginal Language Television Production. The award, co-presented by Telefilm Canada and APTN, went to Rezolution’s first documentary project, Cree Spoken Here. The award is no small achievement as competition was stiff – some 30 candidates were eligible for the distinction.
The beautifully crafted documentary on the survival of the native tongue of the James Bay Cree, was shot on Beta and High 8 video, and filmed on location in Waskaganish and Chisasibi. Cree Spoken Here was put together on a budget of roughly $150,000. The video, dealing with issues of language and cultural identity, was first conceived of two years ago when, as writer/director Neil Diamond tells it, “Daisy Bearskin from Cree Programs in Chisasibi called to tell us that other native groups in Canada and the U.S were interested in what the Cree School Board was doing – using Cree as a language of instruction – and wanted a short video to send around to interested parties. Catherine (Bainbridge) thought it would make a great documentary.”
Released in three languages (Cree, English, and French), Cree Spoken Here examines the outside factors that threatened Cree language and culture in the 20th century, such as the almost debilitating role played by the residential schools, where Cree children were removed from their communities and told they couldn’t speak their own language. The personal testimonies are both moving and revealing as members of the communities take us back to their experiences as children caught up in the traumatic circumstances created by policies of both church and state.
Ernest Webb found out about the award just a couple of days before he flew out to accept it. “A woman from Telefilm called and said that I was on for Banff. I had no idea what she was talking about. It was quite unexpected.” Webb, who was chosen to receive the award as producer of Cree Spoken Here, suddenly found himself being flown out to the biggest marketing event for television in Canada. The Banff Festival attracts various broadcasters, network executives, producers, directors, writers and other media hopefuls from around the world. This is where all the big deals are made. “It’s like a big convention of (broadcasting) industry types,” said Webb. “Everybody has a name tag and is very friendly.” Ernie had a chance to do some schmoozing and rub elbows with a few celebs, such as actress Jennifer Podemski, who was in Dance Me Outside, but one of his biggest fringe benefits turned out to be a round of golf with Steve Martin and Jim Compton from APTN. “The course was breathtaking and I shot 121, my best score, man.”
The honour came with a $10,000 prize, in the form of a pre-approved production contribution, that will go towards Rezolution Pictures’ next project. “We’re currently working on “Journey To Sovereignty,” a two hour video special on Cree sovereignty for APTN, so the prize will be used to fund our next project after that. With the award winning Cree Spoken Here being the very first production for Rezolution Pictures, one can only wonder where they’ll go from here.