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Arts & Culture ᐊᔨᐦᑐᐧᐃᓐ

Montreal First Peoples’ Festival closes with an evening of film awards

BY Joshua Janke Sep 14, 2022

The Montreal First Peoples’ Festival ended with an awards ceremony that celebrated the top Indigenous films shown at this year’s event – “among the best we have ever seen,” according to festival founder André Dudemaine.  

Bolivian film Utama won the grand Teueikan Prize, which is awarded to the overall best cinematic creation. Centred on a Quechua family whose homeland is stricken by drought, Utama deals with themes of change, the passing of time, and the dilemmas of climate change from an Indigenous perspective.

“It is a great honour [to receive the award] and we would like to thank the entire festival for their contributions. It was a great pleasure and our entire team is very proud of our work,” said director Alejandro Loayza Grisi in his acceptance speech. 

Bolivian cinema also took home the Best Cinematography award for Kiro Russo’s El Gran Movimiento, an 85-minute film with remarkable shots of the country’s mountainous terrain and the capital city of La Paz. 

Germaine Arnattaujuq, Neil Christopher and Louise Flaherty won the Best Canadian Short Film award for their animated film Chanson de l’Arctique, a beautifully illustrated encounter with Inuit creation stories. 

“Sharing Inuit culture is very important to us,” said co-producer Flaherty. “We are happy to have our work recognized and we will work hard to continue promoting Inuit content.”

Josué Vergara’s Flores de la Llanura took the Best International Short Film. Shot in Ñomndaa, an Indigenous language of Mexico also known as Amuzgo, the film deals with the issues of femicide and gendered violence. 

“It is important for us to speak out about the violence against women in Mexico. Thank you to the First Peoples Festival and all the organizers, it has been an honour,” stated director Mariana Xochiquétzal Rivera.

Navajo filmmaker Ivey Camille Manybeads Tso picked up the Rigoberta Menchú Award (Communities) with Powerlands, a documentary on the environmental damages and displacement of Indigenous people caused by chemical companies around the world. 

Bretten Hannam, a two-spirit, L’nu (Mi’kmaq) director, won the APTN Award – given to the Indigenous filmmaker who distinguished themselves over the past year – with their critically-acclaimed Wildhood.

Co-producer Gharrett Patrick Paon accepted the award, stating that working alongside Hannam over the past five years “produced some of the most beautiful moments of my life…it was a great chance to showcase an experience that is seldom shown on screen.”

Best Documentary went to Paraguayan director Arami Ullón’s Apenas el sol (Nothing but the Sun), which follows the journey of Mateo Sobode Chiqueno as he preserves the culture of the Ayoreo people through his recordings of their stories, songs and testimonies.

“We worked for over seven years to find the voices that would carry this story in the best way. This award encourages Ayoreo to continue their fight, both with dignity and growing strength, and will allow their story to be heard around the world,” said Ullon.

Inuk-Haitian-Taíno filmmaker Siku Allooloo won the Main Film International award for an emerging talent for Spirit Emulsion, a film about the connection between mother, daughter and the spirit world. 

“It is so appreciated to have my work held up to the world in this way,” Allooloo shared.

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Joshua Janke lives in Montreal and is studying English Literature at Mcgill University. He is passionate about writing, social justice, and creating art.