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Skoden Indigenous Film Festival co-founder and SFU alumnus returns to teach Skoden course

March 01, 2021

When Carr Sappier proposed the idea for an Indigenous film festival at SFU during the final year of their film degree, they had no idea they’d be back two years later as an alumnus co-teaching the course that organizes the Skoden Indigenous Film Festival.

“The first year that we did the festival, I don't think we had as many discussions about reconciliation and Indigenous representation as we’ve had in the first four weeks of this class,” says Sappier. “It makes me happy that we turned this into a course, because we're passing on this knowledge and having these conversations with SFU students.”

Sappier’s Indigenous knowledge and recent experience as an SFU film student is coupled with her co-lecturer Kathleen Mullen’s expertise as a filmmaker and film festival consultant. Mullen helped to organize the inaugural festival and was a mentor to Sappier.

“It's such a joy and privilege and to be able to talk about these ideas with the students,” says Mullen. “Through planning the festival, they’re learning about the history of the land they’re on, Indigenous culture, and reconciliation.”

During the Spring 2021 term, a group of 15 interdisciplinary students are learning not only how to organize an online film festival, but they are also screening many Indigenous films they may not otherwise be exposed to as they review over 100 submissions.

“A cool thing about teaching the course and being an SFU alumnus is being able to design a course that I've always wanted to take,” says Sappier. “I want to make space for serious conversations but also space for fun.”

The course, which is being taught completely online, features many guest speakers, including curators, filmmakers, and an Indigenous Elder. In breakout discussions the sub-committees of marketing, programming, tech operations and guest services work to divide up the responsibilities of planning the festival. The students also write weekly journals about what they’re learning, and they will each give a presentation on an Indigenous filmmaker and their work in order to learn more about Indigenous film and its inclusion in various festivals.  

“It creates this space where the students are really engaging in learning, discussion and the practical elements of planning a festival,” says Mullen, “and because it's an Indigenous festival, it’s so important to understand representation and who the filmmakers are, who's making the work and what the work is about.”

For Sappier, the festival has always been about creating a platform for Indigenous voices.

“I want to be able to have a space at SFU where people feel comfortable and safe, and I think Skoden is that proper vessel to hold that space. If we can all learn from each other, we're going to respect each other, and that's reconciliation: giving space for each other and listening and learning.”

The third annual Skoden Indigenous Film Festival runs March 26 – April 5 on Vimeo. Visit www.sfu.ca/sca/skoden for more details. 

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