Seeing the world through an Indigenous lens

When Carr Sappier started at SFU they didn’t expect to be challenged. “I came into the film program thinking I knew what film was, and that furthering my knowledge was only going to be technical,” they say. “The instructors in the film program are so unique and each of them have a way of getting you to think outside the box.”

In the final year of their film degree, it was Sappier’s time to challenge the university. “As the only Indigenous student in my film cohort and at most times, the only Indigenous voice in my other classes… it was tough but I was also so determined to see some work be done about it.”

Sappier teamed up with fellow SCA student Grace Mathisen to launch the Skoden Indigenous Film Festival, which provides opportunities for Indigenous filmmakers to present their work. The idea emerged out of Sappier’s conversations with classmates about how to take concrete steps toward reconciliation.

“Sometimes there’s absolutely no space for Indigenous people to share and spread their stories. Underrepresentation is real and is happening all over the world and this adds to the silence of their voices, experiences, perspectives and futures. To see the world through another Indigenous lens reminds you that you are not alone and that someone understands you,” Sappier says.

Today the festival lives on as a project organized each year by students in CA 389, and Sappier has returned to SFU as an instructor. “Sometimes it’s surreal to think about how a project started with my classmate turned into something bigger where I am now mentoring other students to go through the same creatively challenging and engaging experience.”

When reflecting on how the festival has been embraced by the School of Contemporary Arts, Sappier says “there are many people walking through the halls of SFU who want to see a positive shift, to see more Indigenous students challenging the system, for young Indigenous artists to feel belonging and thrive.”

Their advice for students considering SFU? “For any Indigenous student considering the film program at SFU, I encourage you to apply but I also want to give you some advice that I wish someone told me… be prepared for a shift; a shift in the way you approach a challenge, a collaboration, and the way you think about film.”

“From my own experience as an Indigenous student in a world that was built around us, through us, under and over us and not along with us, I think it is important that you treat your craft as a way to express your own-self and treat is as ceremony. Be open to collaborations, but remember who you are and where you come from because those stories make you, you.”