I recently attended the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective’s colloquium, iakwé:iahre / se remémorer / we remember, in Montreal. The conference theme was designed to consider the role and intersection of new and traditional memory-keeping mechanisms within the evolving notion of culture, and additionally to re-position the idea of the archives from a formal institutional collection system to a many-layered one that can be as (and potentially even more) significant within a community-based context.
In this manner, for example, Facebook Groups capturing and sharing collective information on a topic of interest to small and large groups of people (such as Groups on hunting stories of the day and the cost of food in the north), can be of significant cultural value to a community, given that they can capture and share personal stories in the active present and in this manner play an important role within the work of decolonization.
How does this relate to independent filmmaking in Winnipeg and Manitoba?
Winnipeg has an important per capita Indigenous population, estimated to be at close to 11%, in comparison to the national average of 4%. As Steven Loft, a past Director of Urban Shaman Gallery, noted in 2008 in an essay reflecting on the environment that contextualized Winnipeg filmmaker Darryl Nepinak’s film, Good Morning Native America, “Winnipeg has (arguably) the largest per capita Aboriginal population of any major Canadian city. Often, however, this is not reflected in the culture of the city.” It is also more than fair to say that this is not reflected in the history of the Winnipeg Film Group.
In its almost forty year existence, it is only within the past decade that the Winnipeg Film Group has seriously invested in its aspiration to be reflective of the community within which it is situated. Without exception, every single work in our distribution holdings completed by an Indigenous filmmaker has been completed in the past ten years.
As part of our formal reflections on forty years, our organization is not only celebrating what has been achieved, but is also considering what more can be done in the future. It is in this context that I attended iakwé:iahre, and that will additionally see the organization very shortly release its new Indigenous Filmmakers Distribution Catalogue and a resource guide for high school educators titled Finding Focus: Framing Canadian Métis and First Nations on Film.
Forming active dialogue around the idea of what more the Winnipeg Film Group can be doing to better support Indigenous filmmakers has also resulted in the recent formation of the Aboriginal Filmmakers Collective supported through our Production Centre. We hope that this developing initiative will result in a meaningful contribution to the participating filmmakers’ careers. As always, we aim to facilitate an open door to independence with this dialogue – independence of form, media, theme and content – but framed within consideration of not only intention but also outcome.
At the iakwé:iahre colloquium, I had the privilege of hearing seminal Canadian documentarian Alanis Obomsawin speak about her inspirations as an artist. Ms. Obomsawin spoke about her influences as being rooted not from other filmmakers, but from the people, and often framed by the asking the question, How did you survive? and then listening.
Our organization can learn a lot from listening, most especially on the topic of how we can better support Indigenous filmmakers, and we hope that the occasion of our 40th anniversary can spark this important dialogue.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge the financial support of the Winnipeg Foundation for enabling me to attend this important event.
Winnipeg Film Group
(204) 925-3456 ext 102