The times are ripe for political recovery, hand on heart. Bad collective consciences like to shed tears on a fixed date. Suddenly, emotion gets involved. Others don’t really want to look at themselves in the colonizer’s mirror… From clashes to tensions, things stir in the cabin.
Does the cause of Indigenous people have to be critical to generate so many sheepish excuses in high places, outside of the major issues linked to centuries of injustice: those of Justin Trudeau for taking the road to the beach on National Day? of truth and reconciliation. Those of François Legault, after he got bogged down in accounting arguments refusing to make it an annual holiday. But no question of endorsing the notion of systemic racism on his side. Even when the anniversary of Joyce Echaquan’s death shocked his people.
Over here the semantic wars until thirsty! Racists, we? All in all, the fate of indigenous peoples has never been so passionate about Quebecers, suddenly confronted with their dark side. Suddenly, cultural life takes on their colors, not just in music and in the museum.
Stories and poems, from Kukum from Michel Jean to the works of Joséphine Bacon and An Antane Kapesh, are all the rage. And so much the better if the moment invites us to discover how the old masters of the territory were put in a box.
In the theater, the Ondinnok company has been offering a rich dramaturgy in French on the First Nations since 1985. The room The ash of your bones by Dave Jenniss, soon at La Petite licorne, with songs and lyrics in the almost extinct Wolastogiyik (Maliseet) language, will rally a more knowledgeable audience than yesterday.
As for the film Bootlegger by multidisciplinary artist Caroline Monnet, with half-Anichinabe, half-French origins, launched at the opening of the FNC, now on the big screen, it is a small event. In an unnamed reserve, the women are powerful, the places are set ablaze. Traditions, Indian Act, emancipation, many doors open and the wind rushes in.
French-language feature films from First Nations remain a rarity. Questionnaire by Myriam Verreault, Before the streets by Chloé Leriche, Hochelaga by François Girard, many others, were made by whites. In 2011, with Mesnak, the Huron-Wendat Yves Sioui Durand, between trial and error and lyrical flights, was the first in Quebec to rub shoulders with it.
The country’s English-speaking Native Americans, including the Mi’kmaq Jeff Barnaby (fabulous Rhymes for Young Ghouls), the Mohawk Tracey Deer with Beans, the Cree-Métis filmmaker Danis Goulet with the astonishing work of anticipation Night Raiders (indoors), are more numerous than in our ranks.
Still, the Inuit dominate the game, with the great films of Zacharias Kunuk (Atanarjuat, pure masterpiece), produced by the Isuma company in which he is involved. Born in Nunavut, these works exude all the more authenticity as the people of the North control their minds and pull the strings. Elsewhere, it is often First Nations filmmakers living off-reserve and semi-foreign to their customs, familiar with the usual production methods, who testify to their truth.
Of course, the institutions ask for nothing better than to finance native fictions, at the French-speaking foundations as well. But it would be in their interest, like the rest of the community, to better understand the nature of the communities. And these to get more involved.
There are not that many First Nations actors on our side of the fence. In English Canada, a filmmaker can tap into a large pool of performers from coast to coast. Dramatic art training would benefit from increasing in number here. A movie set is heavy. Turning into a reserve commands a wolf’s paw. To be relaxed: production methods, budgets, schedules!
It is not easy to impose urban teams on peoples evolving under different rhythms. Throwing large trucks into a closed world challenges sensibilities. Ceremonies with elders are often required. When a film is shot in an indigenous language, the actors do not always master it, some speaking Atikamekw but not Innu or Anichinabe. Translation needs must be able to be met without endless procedures. The creation of knowledgeable native production houses would light up the lanterns.
Should we ask the Aboriginals to adapt to the constraints of our industry or follow them in Indian file? One thing is certain, fictional cinema, so expensive and so complex, claims, under their claws and their songs, the leisure to reinvent itself.