Along Unknown Roads

The 2006 selection gets its start under the sign of traditional cosmic vision and how it survives in today's rituals. Le Monde du rêve, by Productions Manitou, is framed as an introduction to the arcanes of Innu spirituality, while Le drum, directed by young Aboriginals living in Montreal, speaks to us of the presence and meaning of the drum. The first, an exemplary product coming out of a small Nitassinan studio whose constancy in production and perseverance in its commitment to its community warrants our respect. The second, a short produced by a video training workshop held under the triple patronage of Terres en vues/Land InSights, Vidéo Paradiso and the Montreal Native Friendship Centre. From native land, a film touching on elders drawing upon their living spiritual roots, and on the urban side, youth living in the modern world but attuned to ancestral chants. Alanis Obomsawimn's film Sigwan rounds out this film ensemble.


Anastasia Lapsui and Markku Lehmuskallio, who brought us the very beautiful film Seven Songs from the Tundra, are back among us with a strong work based on a traditional ritual still in existence. A girl is married to the god Num, guardian of the Seventh Heaven, and becomes a go-between bridging the world of the dead and the world of the living. Only a powerful shaman can free this woman from her demanding ministry. These spokespersons for the 35,000 Nenets have brought us the film A Bride of the Seventh Heaven entirely filmed in the Nenet language, from their faraway Siberian tundra for its Canadian premiere.


The buzz around the new mini-series Indian Summer, The Oka Crisis will certainly be front and centre in Montreal. In the heat of the moment, a remarkable precedent may well be overlooked: in 2006, a major Canadian TV production was able to call upon an Amerindian director, screenplay writer and cast of actors to develop, illustrate and film a story from recent Canadian First Nations history. And the most astonishing fact is that this surprises no one. Let us take the opportunity to salute the courage of a Montreal producer, Claudio Luca, although this is certainly not his first daring work (he produced the series The Boys of Saint-Vincent). From inside the community (through the eyes of Ellen Gabriel, a magnificent portrayal by Alex Rice) and behind the scenes as the negotiators try to seek an honourable way out of the crisis (Tony Nardi plays a most lifelike John Ciaccia), the historic moment that set off a tidal wave whose aftershocks can still be felt to this day, are seen through the eyes of some key players.


· Avoir un Indien de réserve about Algonquin painter John Tenasco. You can admire some of his works exhibited from May 27 to June 8 in the lobby of the NFB cinema.
· Miroir d'en face by Hyacinthe Combary and Erica Pomerance
· Le défi d'Old Crow by George Payrastre
· La série Mupu by Joséphine Bacon
· Le monde du rêve by Eddy Malenfant
· A series of videos produced by young urban Aboriginals at the Montreal Native Friendship Centre.
And of course the miniseries Indian Summer, the Oka Crisis by Gil Cardinal

The emotional power of the work and its striking depiction of reality will certainly spark off passionate debates. (Among these, there is one worth raising, the lack of Amerindians of the casts of Frenchlanguage Quebec-produced dramas. Why can English-language productions come up with an imposing slate of Aboriginal actors for a great social panorama, while Frenchspeaking Quebec, so proud of its film and televisual triumphs, has not been able to encourage and support serious acting careers among First Nations Quebecers, despite its great number of productions?)

In Mexico, the Kikapus Jaime and Emilio Fernandez were both stars on screen but only one of these two brothers found international fame as a director. The films made by Emilio "El Indio" Fernandez were highly praised in Cannes and Venice in the postwar period. During the retrospective presented at the Cinémathèque québécoise as part of Montréal First Peoples' Festival 2006, we would like to discover or rediscover some unjustly forgotten masterpieces and the sumptuous imagery of Figueroa, justly considered one of the greatest photo directors in the history of film. Moreover, Amerindian Mexico has kept a strong presence on today's screens and the Montréal First Peoples' Festival 2006 selection reflects this. A carte blanche screening at the festival "Raiz de la Imagen" and a projection of the Italian documentary Zapata en las montanas del Chiapa are on the festival program.


First Nations youth have been on the screen as documentary subjects (Urban Inuk, I am going home) and more and more, as fictional characters (The Winter Chill, Johnny Too Tall). Often the work of young directors, this growing trend started out from short subjects; sometimes funny (By the rapids, Coureur de nuit), or downright hilarious (Future Nation), but most often anxious about tough subjects like juvenile delinquency (504938C, Patrick Ross), alcoholism (La bête, Reservation Warparties), AIDS (Painted Positive) and single parenthood (Flat). But optimism takes over from gritty reality and life's problems can be overcome (Nothing happenned here, One-eyed dogs are free).

These works sketch out a new image of the Amerindian at odds with the mythical icon of the noble savage running free in unspoiled nature. Cities and reserves are where modern Aboriginal youth live and imagine their future.


Daring forms and subject matter are certainly becoming the rule in First Nations audiovisual production. The city of Kelowna —which just turned 100!— refused the commemorative film about it as seen by Dana Claxton: Anwolek, judging it incompatible with its aesthetic criteria. Shelly Niro patterned her film structure on music (Suite: Indian) while another film (Gesture Down, I don’t sing) borrows from James Welsh's poetry.

Genre films are starting to make headway among the different categories presented at our festival with (a legacy of traditional tales?) a constant undercurrent of fantastic tales, such as Plains Empty, The Snaring Madmanand The Winter Chill. The surrealistic-poetic allusions in the gloomy The Squeeze Box are a surprising twist.


Classic documentaries retain all their power in masterful works such as Trudell (about John Trudell, the famous American Indian Movement activist) or Le défi d’Old Crow (about social workers in a Yukon Aboriginal community).

New avenues are explored in more personal journeys. For example, in The Gift of Diabetes, the director/narrator transcends his death anguish, in a film quest in which doctors, herbalists, philosophers, anthropologists, historians and elders are called upon to give an answer to the existential cry: "why me?"


The wild underground success (via Internet upload) of a parody radio show featuring gross stereotypes about life in an Aboriginal community was the starting point for a road trip questioning the Canadian psyche, the racial myths that founded it and the social function of humour (Brockett 99 - Rock'in the Country). In Unakuluk, cher petit Marie-Hélène Cousineau dialogues with the old soul of the Inuit child she was entrusted with adopting according to an age-old practice.

Art and artists can also be subjects of the most explosive approaches to documentaries: Nikamun (on contemporary Innu song) and Avoir un Indien de réserve (about the Algonquin painter John Tenasco).


Historical documentaries always occupy a major place in any body of works relating to First Nations. Littleknown or forgotten aspects of a story to be revisited in Aleut Story, Wolastoqewiyic, le peuple de la belle rivière (the history of the Viger Malecites, "the people that did not want to die") and The Lynching of Louie Sam. Worth checking out, Stealing Little Mary in which forensic medical techniques are applied to refute the claims of official history about the Beothuks. Skeletons are more eloquent than written records, and most of all, they don't lie.

Finally, living tradition and spirituality remain a favourite subject. Boo introduces us to a Siberian shaman and Native Spirit explains the meaning and ritual of the sun dance, while La Cacahuète de l'agouti conducts us into the magic universe of the Panarà of Brasil.

As we slalom between youth and wisdom, the film and video trail will be a likely setting for unforeseen twists and turns.

June 8, Day of the Popping Corn

1195, Saint-Laurent Boulevard

This day is dedicated to youth, with colourful events from 3 p.m. to midnight at la Société des arts technologiques. With new works and up-and-coming new performers, this June 8th will be a day for renewed energies and shared emotions. Video screenings, launch of the Race Around the Great Turtle, picnic, deejaying and veejaying in the evening. The corn won't be the only thing popping, that's for sure!

The Montreal's Native Friendship Centre and Vidéo Paradiso have joined forces with Terres en vues/Land InSights in sponsoring audiovisual production internships* for Montreal First Nations Youth. The videos coming out of this program provide a strong, sincere expression of a new generation's life experiences and hopes. The viewing public is invited to share a great moment of pride and joy with the young participants, as la Société des arts technologiques hosts the world premiere of many of these budding video artists' works (other videos from this initiative will be screened throughout the First Peoples' Festival 2006; see the NFB cinema screening schedule).

Every autumn, Trouville- sur-mer, a charming seaside resort in Normandy, plays host to a festival of shorts, Off-courts. An imposing Quebec delegation travels there every year. In partnership with Montréal' First Peoples' Festival, a special day was devoted to the First Nations at Offcourts 2005. Videos were improvised on the spot, relying on the kino-cabaret method, involving French-Amerindian-Québécois teams. Don't miss the opportunity to see unforgettable scenes filmed by and featuring young Amerindians in the charming Trouville seaside decor.

The race around the Great Turtle is a new event. Young First Nations videomakers kick off their trek by a grand tour of Quebec, before setting their sights on more remote destinations. Come and salute these adventurers as they hunt for images of the road and travel. They will treat us to their first shorts, then the starting signal will be given.

Wapikoni mobile is already a longdistance trucker (and we don't mean in long shorts!) From the different Quebec First Nations communities, productions vibrating to the soul of young Amerindians who have filmed their own vision of things in the world. A selection of recent videos will be screened in the presence of the artists.

Also featuring the premiere and launch of Rêver son avenir (Dreaming your future): a journey through four communities in which young students and dropouts refer to their own personal stories to explain why it is better to stay in school, despite all the obstacles, to make their dreams reality... We will take this trip to the tune of Algonquin rapper Samien's music. This documentary was made to encourage First Nations youth in Quebec to stay in school. To see how this will help them achieve a better future...

The screenings will conclude with a fun-filled picnic at Place du Marché Park, next to the SAT. Bring your sandwiches and your cooler and come celebrate summer with us.

And starting of at 8 p.m., a dazzling evening with Geronimo "Mad Eskimo" and other virtuoso deejays, and a performer who has become a must, Samien, a great rapper hailing from Pikogan, and Taqraliq Partridge in a spoken word performance. It will be a First Nations version of the SAT's end of term-mix evenings.

Free admission..

* This project has received funding from de l'Entente sur le développement culturel de Montréal (Ville de Montréal and ministère de la Culture et des Communications)

Activities Outside Montreal

Screening at Aronhiatekha school
Saturday, June 27
4:00 p.m Indian Summer, the Oka Crisis (Part 1)
7:30 p.m Indian Summer, the Oka Crisis (Part 2)
Introductory workshop on animated film techniques
May 26, 27, 28 and 29
May 26, 27, 28 and 29 Under the guidance of Coe Hoedeman (The Sand Castle, L'ours renifleur)and trainers from the Au Kanien'kehaka Onkwawen:na Raotitiohkwa NFB centre, the NFB centre and the NFB animation studios.
Projections at Kateri Hall
Monday, May 29
6:00 p.m. Indian Summer, the Oka Crisis
Tuesday, May 30
6:30 p.m.By the rapids, Hero by Nature, I can make art... like Ron Noganosh, and other shorts
Wednesday, May 31
6:30 p.m.Trudell
Projection at Anishinabeg Cultural Centre
June 8
7 p.m. Avoir un Indien de réserve