School for the Contemporary Arts, Film & Video, engagement

Organizers, from left, Nicole Manson, Grace Mathisen, Kathleen Mullen, Noe Rodriguez, Kim Hockey, and Carr Sappier (front) during the inaugural Skoden Indigenous Film Festival.

New hands-on course has SFU students organizing second annual Skoden Indigenous Film Festival

January 13, 2020

By Tessa Perkins Deneault

While many courses teach students about film festivals, a new SFU course on this topic is the first in Canada to have students apply their classroom lessons in real time. As they learn about all aspects of organizing, curating and promoting film festivals, they’ll be applying this new knowledge to organize the second annual Skoden Indigenous Film Festival.

SFU film students Carr Sappier and Grace Mathisen, from the School for the Contemporary Arts (SCA), founded the festival in 2019 to showcase Canadian Indigenous filmmakers and talent, and to Indigenize the SFU community and downtown campus that is situated in the heart of Musqueam, Sḵwxwú7mesh and Tsleil-Waututh territories. Indigenous communities from coast to coast to coast use the term “skoden,” which is slang for “let's go then.”

Throughout the spring term, 15 students representing 10 different subject areas from the faculties of Communication, Art and Technology; Arts and Social Sciences; and Education, will team up for this unique interdisciplinary course. Sky Hopinka, a professor in film production and the first Indigenous faculty member to hold a permanent position in the SCA, will teach the course.

Hopinka was inspired by a similar course offering at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where he taught before joining the SCA in 2019. While that course culminated in a festival of experimental film, this new course’s focus on Indigenous film, as well as its interdisciplinary group of students, sets it apart. The festival serves as an avenue for practicing decolonization and provide a platform for promoting under-represented filmmakers and artists.

“The course aims to demystify the film festival process and empower communities,” explains Hopinka.

Student founders of the Skoden Indigenous Film Festival, Grace Mathisen, left, and Carr Sappier.

In the first few weeks of the course, Hopinka will introduce students to the behind-the-scenes workings of film festivals. They’ll learn about promotion, projection, venue selection, fundraising and programming. They’ll then form committees, based on their strengths and interests to divide up the work. Hopinka also plans to emphasize the potential for collaborating with community partners and institutions.

“The festival is one weekend, but it sends the message that we are here, we have a voice, and these forms of cinema are out there,” says Hopinka.

More details about the date and location of the Skoden Indigenous Film Festival will be shared once they are confirmed.