Here are several films to watch out for at the First People’s Film Festival, organized by Land InSights / Terres en vues. Films will be screened from June 16 to June 23, and to check out the detailed schedule, go to www.nativelynx.qc.ca.
Pudana: Last of the Line
Anastasia Lapsui & Markku Lehmuskallio (Finland, 83 min)
Neko, a middle-aged Nenets woman, recounts her experience growing up in the Yamal Peninsula area of northwestern Siberia in the 1960s. The theme of assimilation is central to this tale as young Neko, who lives a traditional life with her father and grandmother, is forced to attend a distant boarding school and learn all things Russian. Yet Neko, who’s renamed Nadya, is bullied and called “uncivilized” because she doesn’t speak Russian, doesn’t like the food and sits on the floor. Beautifully shot, this film highlights the girl’s transformation in a scene where she sings a Soviet youth song instead of her traditional song.
The Dead Can’t Dance
Rodrick Pocowatchit (USA, 103 min)
“Where are we?” asks one of the characters. “Somewhere in Kansas,” replies Dax Wildhorse, But this Kansas is not the same one Dorothy lived in, this Kansas is much more ghoulish. What could be billed as a Native “Night of the Living Dead”, “The Dead Can’t Dance” is a hilarious, low-budget project by Comanche writer-director-actor Rodrick Pocowatchit, who bears a slight Adam Beach resemblance. With the landscape littered with dead bodies that turn into zombies, three travelling Native Americans discover that they are immune to a mysterious plague and attempt to escape this nightmare with mixed results. However, along the way, the characters discover the value of family, friendship and education.
Ivan and Ivan
Philipp Abryutin (Russia, 17 min)
Set in the Magadan region of Siberian Russia, “Ivan and Ivan” is the tale of a young Evens boy and his grandparents. Living a traditional lifestyle in the windswept tundra, nine-year-old Ivan learns from his Elders how to herd reindeer, fish in the river and work around the camp. But this idyllic life is interrupted when the grandfather is informed via satellite phone that the boy will be picked up and taken to school. As the vehicle drives off, a forlorn look in seen the grandfather’s eyes – as now he will do everything on his own.
Neil Diamond (Canada, 89 min)
Cree filmmaker Neil Diamond was always intrigued by the portrayal of Indians on the silver screen, which is why he decided to explore the way Hollywood has depicted North American Natives over the last 120 years. This documentary is a personal journey as Diamond provides us with an historical overview of the portrayal of the Native American. It starts with the “noble Injun” as seen in many of the early silent films. By the 1930s, Hollywood is depicting the Indian as a bloodthirsty and murdering savage, hell-bent of stopping progress. And eventually, Diamond takes us to the Arctic where he discovers the future of Native cinema with Inuit filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk (of “Atanarjuat; The Fast Runner” fame).
Ellen-Astri Lundby (Norway, 50min)
This is a fascinating look at how the history of an indigenous people can be changed within a generation as Norwegian filmmaker Ellen-Astri Lundby explores her Sami roots in this moving documentary. Thanks to her ailing mother, who denied being Sami after attending boarding school, Lundby searches for her identity as a 50-something woman. Due to the government-sponsored Norwegianization program in the 1950s, large numbers of Sami rejected their heritage in the name of progress, though many have returned to the fold. However there are still some who will not accept it, even though they were born in the north, spoke Sami as a child and have relatives who have re-embraced their culture.
Meihana & Pere Durie
(New Zealand, 11 min)
This poignant short focuses on the last game of a two-year tour that the New Zealand Natives rugby team played in London in 1889. Tired and battered after a grueling 106 matches, team captain Joe Warbrick rallies his players in the dressing room to take on the English side or risk forfeiting the series. This is a significant moment in Maori, as well as New Zealand, history as the players don their now-famous black jerseys with the silver fern, perform the haka war chant and enter the annals of rugby history.