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Films from two Bella Coola directors part of Hot Docs Festival 2023 lineup in Toronto

Banchi Hanuse and Jean-Philippe Marquis will be attending the screenings

Two new films from Bella Coola directors will be screened at Hot Docs Film Festival in Toronto, taking place April 27 to May 7, 2023.

The films were chosen out of 2,848 submissions. Hot Docs selected 214 films from countries all over the world.

Banchi Hanuse’s new feature documentary Aitamaako’tamisskapi Natosi: Before The Sun will be shown on Saturday, April 29 and May 3.

Jean-Philippe Marquis’s feature documentary Silvicola will screen on April 28 and May 3.

Hanuse and Marquis both plan to attend the screenings.

Aitamaako’tamisskapi Natosi: Before The Sun

Aitamaako’tamisskapi Natosi: Before The Sun is the story of a young Siksika Nation woman named Logan Red Crow in Blackfoot Territory inAlberta and her journey into the world of bareback horse racing, normally dominated by males.

“It is a glimpse into the life of this exceptional young woman who is preparing for one of the most dangerous horse races in the world. We follow her and her family as they train to prepare her for the relay,” Hanuse told Coast Mountain News.

Logan Red Crow’s story was captivating from the beginning, Hanuse said.

“Her life and story is incredibly compelling. Her relationship and love for her family and thoughtful care for her grandfather who had just lost his wife, her grandmother, really touched me personally.”

Hanuse was asked if she would direct the documentary in 2021 and filming began that July, lasting on and off over a period of nine months.

Joining Logan in the film are her father Allison Red Crow, mom Jayme BigSnake and brother Racey BigSnake.

Hanuse said getting to meet and be around the Red Crow family was amazing.

“They are beautiful, hardworking and kind. Their ranch is right by the Bow River.”

Shot on location mostly at Siksika Nation, south of Calgary, some of it was also filmed at Enoch Cree Nation near Edmonton, Tsuut’ina and Îyâxe Nakoda, Blackfoot Territory, near Calgary, and in Casper, Wyoming.

While she is comfortable hiking alone in the Bella Coola Valley mountains, knowing there are bears, cougars and wolves, Hanuse said she is leery of horses even though she loves them.

To prepare for working within close range of race horses for the documentary, Hanuse worked with Vicky Tuck in the Bella Coola Valley, who helped her become more comfortable with horses.

First screened during the Big Sky Documentary Festival in Missoula, Montana in March, the film won the prestigious Big Sky Award.

Hanuse attended the premiere and said everyone was pleased it sold out.

“Everyone was coming up to speak with Logan, especially young girls.”

Aitamaako’tamisskapi Natosi: Before The Sun is also up for multiple awards at Hot Docs.

The film was edited by Tanya Maryniak, with producers Carey Newman, Izzy Pullen and Mike Wavrecan while Ben Giesbrecht and Luke Connor served as the directors of photography.


Jean-Philippe Marquis is a documentary filmmaker and director of photography who moved to Bella Coola with his partner three years ago where they operate an organic farm.

Originally from Quebec, he has 10 years of cinematography experience on documentaries and television series.

For a decade he was a tree-planter and it was his experience reforesting in remote places in B.C. that inspired him to make the film Silvicola.

“This one is a personal project,” he said, adding the film took him four years to make.

“I worked on it mostly during COVID. I was able to travel because I was going to remote out-of-the way places. I’ve done all the photography and cinematography for it.”

Shot on Vancouver Island, the B.C. Coast and in a sawmill in Terrace, Marquis intentionally wanted to include perspectives of people working in the forest industry in the film.

Often the only people who are out on the landscape are the loggers and after that the tree-planters, he said.

“Sometimes I was staying on a barge with loggers and we discussed old growth logging, the dangers of the job and their perspectives about the industry.”

Describing the film as a cinematic journey, he said he is bringing the viewers deep into the forest.

Additionally, there are some First Nations people in the film who discuss cedar bark harvesting, culturally modified trees and the Indigenous perspective on logging.

Made up of a series of vignettes, the film roughly follows the journey of a tree through the logging and reforestation process.

“It’s a film about our connection and disconnection to the forest and shows that people who work in the industry have a deep knowledge,” Marquis said.

“Although they cut down trees and operate big machines they have a deep understanding of the ecosystem and how the forest works and there is lots that we can learn from them.”

The film offers hints of solutions on how forestry could be made better, he said.

Support for making the film came from the Canada Council of the Arts, the BC Arts Council and the National Film Board.

Silvacola is also screening at the Doxa Festival in Vancouver, May 4 thought May 14.

Both Silvicola and Aitamaako’tamisskapi Natosi: Before The Sun will be streamed online May 5 to 9 with tickets available to purchase at https://3/whats-on/watch-cinema.

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Monica Lamb-Yorski

About the Author: Monica Lamb-Yorski

A B.C. gal, I was born in Alert Bay, raised in Nelson, graduated from the University of Winnipeg, and wrote my first-ever article for the Prince Rupert Daily News.
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