Just one month after a mobile movie production trailer pulled up next to the Splatsin Community Centre in Enderby, members of the First Nation community unveiled the short films they’d created.
Wapikoni, a Montreal-based non-profit organization, deploys three state-of-the-art trailers and staff members to Indigenous communities, offering them the chance to discover their filmmaking talents and give them access to cutting-edge equipment.
It’s Wapikoni’s second visit to Splatsin—having also come in 2017—and a Tuesday evening screening of six short films directed by five members of the community unearthed some movie-making talent, as well as some heartfelt personal stories.
Filmmaker Randy Williams said he was proud of all the young people in his commmunity who showed what they were capable of.
“I was sitting in the back because I didn’t want to get a lump in my throat,” he said. “It’s a joy to see the talents that have come out… and it’s a message that’s going to go all over Canada.”
The short films will be put online at Wapikoni.ca in about one month’s time, and some of them may be shown at festivals the organization goes to.
Wapikoni staff member Olivier Colard has spent the month passing on his refined video skill set to the Splatsin participants, but says they’ve given back something special.
“It was a very privileged experience. I’ve gotten to spend some very quality time with people I would not have met if I was not involved in the project, so that aspect has been beautiful. I got to record a couple artists who had never had the chance to be in a studio before, so that was amazing.”
Colard mentions one Elder in particular who wanted to record songs so that his grandkids could one day listen to them. The man ended up recording an album in the trailer’s sound booth, and wrapped up Tuesday night’s event with a live performance.
“That’s the kind of little moment that gives a purpose to the project,” said Colard, a first-timer with Wapikoni.
A tremendous amount of work went into producing the six short films in such a short time frame, and even Colard was somewhat amazed by the breakneck pace of the last few weeks.
“It’s pretty intense, you know… it’s pretty impressive: the amount that one can learn regarding how movie production works—the sound, the camera handling and all those technical skills. And then after that, I think a lot of people get to learn about their own culture by investigating more because they’re making a movie about something.”
Culture was certainly the dominant theme at the screening: the films included portrayals of Indigenous folktales, issues around land rights, and a music video cut for an Indigenous song.
One film—called Sharing Mela’hma, produced by Crystal Morris—told a story of an Indigenous cure for arthritis as she passed down a natural remedy to her daughter Victoria.
“Much like Randy said, The lump in the throat happens when you see your work come together, because we speak from our hearts and film brings it to life,” Morris said following Williams’ post-screening comments.
Founded in 2004, Wapikoni currently has three trailers touring the country to offer video workshops. Last year, the mobile studios reached 44 communities across Canada and 14 First Nations.
On Thursday, the Wapikoni trailer set off for Stoney, a First Nations reserve in Alberta, where they’ll start the process all over again, teaching video production and sharing storytelling skills to another community.