Women, Earth and Fire: a free-wheeling programming in a post-lockdown world

The International First Peoples’ Festival announces that an evolving program, with the general theme of Nomade Land, is about to commence. Innovative and out of isolation, it will extend from August to November, and will be constantly evolving, as activities are announced in the course of the festival, with events developed indoors, online or in public places.

“The caravan gets organized as it moves forward” says André Dudemaine, the programming director, quoting the famous Arab proverb.

The big start will be on August 7: a first cinema program with 7 feature films shown at the Cinéma du Musée every day until August 13th at 8:00 p.m. as part of the official competition (award ceremony in November); events and exhibits in the Quartier des spectacles and beyond; then online, a concert, Trancestral, and launch of a prestigious journal issue with an intercontinental panel.

We will be able to see the Quebec premiere of Sanctorum by Joshua Gil, selected in Venice (Critics’ Week), and Panquiaco by Ana Elena Tejera, selected in Rotterdam. These two films were shot with the participation of Indigenous communities, one of them the Mixe of Mexico, the other the Guna of Panama: the weight of history and memory, a dimension that is dreamlike, even fantastic, open to a timescale of centuries while the tragedies of the present – deforestation, drug trafficking, ecocide – continue to hit hard.

Struggles and spirituality are closely linked in the everyday reality of the Indigenous populations of the Americas, and the films bear witness to this: the insistent call of the spirits of the mountain (Ushui, la luna y el trueno by Rafael Roberto Mojica Gil); disappearances and femicides (Rustic Oracle, by Sonia Bonspille Boileau, encore showing, APTN Award); protection of ancestral land with, as a starting point, a remarkable marriage between an Asháninka man and a non-Indigenous woman (Antonio e Piti by Vincent Carelli and Wewito Piyãko). Unique and not to be missed, the third feature-length fiction film by Navajo filmmaker Blackhorse Lowe takes us on a spirited trip to the Indigenous Bohemia of Albuquerque (Fukry). Finally, the great Alanis Obomsawin, a veteran filmmaker, will be present to talk about her latest film Jordan River Anderson, The Messengerabout the child whose death brought about a major legislative change in Canada.

Other films to come, in theatres or online, will be announced at a later date.

Live, August 7 at noon, on presenceautochtone.ca: the concert Transcestral 2020, a renewed encounter between Indigenous and Sufi music. Transcestral expresses the perpetual quest for harmony between humanity and nature, drawing from the choreographic and musical traditions of sacred art, from here and elsewhere. Oktoécho brings together Métis singer Moe Clark, Innu poet Joséphine Bacon, Inuit throat singer Nina Segalowitz, the Buffalo Hat Singers, Khalil Moqadem (vocals and oud), dancers Barbara Diabo and Tanya Evanson as well as other musicians, all under the leadership of conductor and composer Katia Makdissi-Warren (to whom the SMCQ gave a tribute in 2019/2020).

In the Quartier des spectacles, August 6-9, the mythical figures of animals and characters from legend will be displayed on and around the Place des Festivals. Pop-up shows, performances by Indigenous artists will be available from time to time in the downtown area, which is slowly coming back to life. People will be able to see and hear the singers Laura Niquay (Atikamekw); Kanen (Innu); Eadsé (Wendat); and Sam Ojeda, traditional dancer. And on Sainte-Catherine Street, works celebrating Earth, Water and Life by the artist Christi Belcourt (Métis).

Finally, on August 13 at 7 pm, the virtual launch of Indigenous Cinema and Media in the Americas: Storytelling, Communities, and Sovereignties, a special issue of Canadian Journal of Film Studies / Revue canadienne d’études cinématographiques, published by University of Toronto PressWith a panelincluding:Deborah Walker-Morrison (Māori), from the University of Auckland, Aotearoa; Marion Konwanénhon Delaronde (Kanienʼkehá꞉ka), from the Language and Culture Training Center, Kahnawake; Karine Bertrand (Métis Algonquian), from Queen’s University; and André Dudemaine (Innu), of the International First Peoples’ Festival. This virtual panel will be moderated by Isabelle St-Amand, from Queen’s University, co-editor of the issue. It should be noted that this publication originates from scholarly meetings organized around the International First Peoples’ Festival, in association with various universities, a distinctive characteristic of the Montreal event.

These activities and those that will be announced later are like so many white pebbles laid along the road of Nomade Land to help us find the way to the renewal that promises beyond the horizon. Migrating on the road of time, nomads, guided by ancestral wisdom, adapt and innovate without ever losing their bearings.