Article, Social Justice, Arts & Culture
Reel Causes #Indigeneity: Our Conversation with Rylan Friday
We are partnering again with Reel Causes for their upcoming event #Indigeneity, which will showcase Indigenous films that address pressing contemporary Indigenous issues here in Canada and around the world.
Guest Indigenous Curator Rylan Friday spoke with us about the upcoming event and touched upon some of the common themes amongst the films, including Indigenous mythology, LGBT2Q+ representation, and mental health issues. The program consists of seven diverse films, ranging from documentary to narrative to experimental, that all speak to contemporary Indigenous issues and stories.
Friday describes the program as an attempt to weave together small threads from the films, such as residential schools, Indigenous myths and legends, and family bonds, into a cohesive singular blanket. He hopes that together the films can help make sense of Indigenous colonial traumas, the intersections of Indigeneity and sexual identity, and lateral violence within the community.
INDIGENOUS STORIES TOLD TODAY
One theme that some of the films delve into is the crossroads of being LGBT2Q+ and Indigenous. Friday spoke about representation of two-spirit people within Jules Koostachin’s OChiSkwaCho, praising the film for not making “the sexuality of [the protagonist] being two spirited the main focus – she is this very powerful being who happens to like the same sex.” He also explains how the film utilizes the mythology of the titular OChiSkwaCho (or sometimes referred to as Sasquatch in English), explaining that often “the Sasquatch is a walker between two realms. They materialize in the physical realm. Blink and you miss it.”
“I think more people are catching on now that residential schools and other horrible acts that happened to native people in the past have slowly created a ripple effect.”
OChiSkwaCho expresses a unique experience of a two-spirited elderly woman as she decides whether to follow the spiritual messenger Sasquatch, or to stay with her grandchildren. Her sexuality and Indigenous identities reveal a unique lived experience that is built upon a deep history of both spirituality and colonial tramas. Friday explains that “once Christian dogma was instilled within Indigenous communities, two-spirited people were seen as not normal. Before this, two-spirited people were seen as higher up people. They were spiritual leaders.”
Another common theme amongst some of the works is mental health and issues related to suicide within certain Indigenous communities. When asked why these theme was so prevalent within the films, Friday stated, “I think more people are catching on now that residential schools and other horrible acts that happened to native people in the past have slowly created a ripple effect.”
He continued that as a Vancouver resident, he sees first hand large swaths of people experiencing addiction and mental illness issues, particularly the higher rates of these issues amongst Indigenous people: “It becomes a sad fact of life. That is why I wanted to focus on the mental wellness and suicide aspects as well. That was one theme that somehow reared its head.”
THE INDIGENOUS RENAISSANCE OF FILMMAKING
These seven works represent what Friday calls an “Indigenous renaissance” in filmmaking. This new wave of Indigenous filmmakers, according to Friday, are often pushing the norm, working from an unconventional point of view. Many of the films have screened internationally, including Trevor Mack’s ʔEtsu which screened at the Toronto International Film Festival (2017), and Samson Rambo and Ian Leaupepe’s My Friend Michael Jones which screened at imagineNATIVE Film & Media Arts Festival (2018).
“Allyship and reconciliation are not a brand. You can’t profit off of it.”
As Reel Causes strives to educate and inspire their viewers both through the presentation of films and conversations between audiences and filmmakers, Friday hopes viewers start to question how we can all be proactive allies to all Indigenous people. He emphasizes that “allyship and reconciliation are not a brand. You can’t profit off of it.” For non-Indigenous folks, Friday expects that “these films are going to show some harsh realities and truths” that they might not have known before.
Friday believes that #Indigeneity will spark dialog between Indigenous youth, their peers and their mentors. When asked how he chose which films to include, Friday explained that he primarily sought local films from Indigenous filmmakers that did not “just dwell on our past, but also look forward to our future.” He emphasized that he wanted Indigenous viewers to feel there can be hope after watching the films.
The screening of these films and the Q&A period that follows will be fruitful for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous folks to partake in. Viewers will be able to discuss the films with both Rylan Friday and the filmmakers themselves while celebrating Indigenous stories.
#Indigeneity happens on Thursday, September 19 at 7pm in the Djavad Mowafagnian Cinema here at SFU’s Goldcorp Centre for the Arts (149 W Hastings St, Vancouver). You can buy tickets and see the film program on Reel Causes’ website.
Rylan Friday is a multimedia storyteller from the Cote First Nation based out of Kamsack, Sasatchewan. He is a graduate of both BCIT’s Radio Broadcast and Communications program, and Capilano University Indigenous Independent Digital Filmmaking program.
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