The 16th edition of the Terres en Vue First People’s Festival comes with a twist.

The festival will be split in two parts this year, in part because of the popularity of the ever-growing Francofolie Festival and their need for the same venues during the same time as the First People’s Fest.

Despite the change, it should still be a hit, according to Andre Dudemaine, the festival’s main organizer. “We have very special and important activities on the program,” he said. “We think even if we have two different dates, the activities by themselves will attract the attention of the public.”

The line-up includes 70 films from all over the world. First Nations directors from as far away as New Zealand and Australia will showcase their works at the Cinémathèque Québécoise.

One of fest’s main highlights is the screening of Indian Summer, the Oka Crisis, said Dudemaine.

“It’ll be a world premiere and will be shown in Kanesatake, Kahnawake and Montreal. It is a made-for-TV dramatic reconstruction from the point of view of the people who were really involved in the war zone and in the war rooms of the 1990 Oka crisis. This is a very special film,” he observed. “What is also noteworthy is that Gil Cardinal, who is Cree, directed and wrote the film. And the fact that First Nations people also play the Native characters.”

The festival is one of many in Montreal during “festival season.” Dudemaine says the First Peoples’ Fest draws an audience of 50,000 to 60,000 every year.

It opens May 25 with a presentation by the Canadian Guild of Crafts entitled Fifteen Contemporary Nunavik Inuit Sculptors, that continues until June 30.

The first part of the festival runs May 25 to June 8. It opens up again on Aboriginal Day, June 21, at Parc Émelie-Gamelin (Berri Square). That’s where people can take in free outdoor activities and a chance to purchase authentic Native crafts from the artists themselves. This part of the festival will run five days instead of the usual four.

To mark the opening, the festival has invited Celinda Sosa, an Indigenous Quechua who has been appointed to the position of Director of Economic Development in the government of recently elected Bolivian President Evo Morales.

“We’ll have representation from what is probably the only government in America that is mostly indigenous,” Dudemaine noted.

For people on a smaller budget or students who wish to partake in this summer’s activities, there are many free things to do.

Two visual arts exhibitions are free to the public. One is called First Nations written heritage: exploring, annotating, revealing. “The seven artists have made their works around written heritage which are documents that are pertinent to the history of one or several first nations,” Dudemaine told the Nation. Glenna Matoush will be in attendance and her fine work will prominently be on display.

A small exposition of embroidery from Peruvian Amazon Natives on June 8 and the aforementioned Inuit Sculptor’s display on May 25, as well as all activities in Émelie-Gamelin Park from June 21-25 will also be easy on the pocketbook – as in free.

The festival will be continuing to promote their low-cost loyalty program. People buying the festivals’ program will get a badge and only have to pay $2 for each screening when presenting the badge. The usual cost is $7 per screening. “This is the best deal of any film festival in Montreal,” Dudemaine declared.

This year’s festival pays homage to Myra Cree, the festival president who passed away suddenly last year.

“This is a big loss for us,” said Dudemaine. “She was not only supportive but a great inspiration. Her spirit is still with us. We are very lucky because Alanis Obomsawin accepted to be the new president at Terres en Vue. We have another great cultural leader.”

There is more bad news however. Fans of the popular Rez, White and Blues Aboriginal music showcase, usually broadcast on Radio Canada, is a no-go this year. It was a casualty of a growing trend away from televised concerts in the industry.

“We’ll have to plan things differently next year in a way that we can have a strong presence of musical talent on stage,” said Dudemaine, who added that a youth-based gathering will be held June 8 to replace Rez, White and Blues. Films by young Aboriginals across Quebec will be screened and a DJ and VJ will spin the latest Aboriginal recordings and videos.

Dudemaine said the theme this year revolves around the Mohawk word Tio’tia:ke, which means “where the currents meet” and is also the Mohawk word for Montreal.

“In the Iroquoian language, the word “currents” also means people, so it’s a gathering of people. Every spring, because of the river’s configuration, Montreal was the place to meet. So the land is coming back to its traditional role for the festival.”