Category Archives: Women directors/filmmakers

Trailblazing ‘Mabel’ (2016) Breaks Barriers For Women And Seniors

There once was a time in Canada when you could work at one or maybe two jobs until retirement, collect your pension and enjoy the golden years of your life. There was also a time when very few women worked outside of the home. If they did, it was most likely part-time work where the income was supplementary to her husband’s income. Today, Canadians can expect to work well beyond the traditional retirement age. Also, Canadian women have entered and succeed in all kinds of professions. They have even launched their own successful careers while juggling family responsibilities at the same time. Mabel Robinson, the energetic 90-year old star of Teresa MacInnes’ 20-minute short film Mabel (2016), is one of those pioneering Canadian women who did just that.

Using a mix of animated photos, archived footage and in-salon interviews, Mabel documents the life of Mabel Robinson as Hubbards, Nova Scotia’s first female entrepreneur and her 70-year career. Knowing at a young age that the wanted to be a hairdresser, she was determined to make it happen and made the sacrifices to do so. By attending hairdressing school in Boston, Mabel laid the foundations of her lifelong career. Moving back to Hubbards, not only did she get to pursue her dream career, she established her own hairstyling shop and raised a family while doing so. Despite her aging and the death of her husband, Mabel shows no signs of calling it quits. Watch the entire film below:

 

Teresa shared some of her thoughts and experiences surrounding the film, and revealed some interesting details about Mabel Robinson that didn’t make it into the documentary:

Short Film Fan: What motivated or influenced you to make Mabel?

Teresa MacInnes: I have always been attracted to the wisdom and charm of older people. I had a close relationship with my grandparents growing up and three of them lived out their final years in our family home. So, when I met the iconic beautician, Mabel Robinson, I immediately saw the potential for an engaging documentary about her and the elderly clients she continues to serve. Like my grandmother, Mabel made me laugh and inspired a deeper perspective on work, life and beauty. She also reminded me of the importance of having older women in my life and on the screen.

When I brought the idea to Annette Clarke at the NFB Atlantic Studio, she was also charmed by Mabel and felt it was an important story to tell – a story that highlighted not only women in their golden years, but also people living in rural Nova Scotia. Annette’s support and encouragement gave me the time to shape the story and to create the film.

SFF: What challenge or challenges did you face when you were making this film?

TM: I have been making feature length and television documentaries for 30 years, so I think the biggest challenge was keeping the film under 30 minutes. Mabel is an amazing woman and the story I tell is only one aspect of who she is. She is an accomplished knitter who sells her gorgeous hats, mittens and sweaters at the farmer’s market. She plays poker and bingo. She is a dedicated volunteer and has a rich circle of friends. But, doing a short portrait was the plan from the beginning and I am glad I took that challenge on. I love the short format and hope to do more in the future.

SFF: Do you have a memorable moment that occurred when you were producing Mabel?

TM: The entire experience was memorable and spending time with Mabel and her clients was exactly what I needed in my life at that time. I was grieving my father’s death and was feeling a bit weary from years of making some pretty intense films. Mabel gave me another perspective and I now look at my work and my life in a very different way. I will always be thankful to her for that.

SFF: What has the audience reception towards the film been like since its release?

TM: When Mabel premiered at the Atlantic Film Festival, CBC News did a story about the film and it went viral; generating millions of views and hundreds of heartfelt comments. Because of this, the demand to see Mabel was immediate. As a result, the NFB decided to release it online via the NFB.ca site and YouTube. The ability to send a link and have it so accessible has been great, but it also means I haven’t had the pleasure of watching it with an audience as much as I would have liked. But, I am happy it is out there for the world to see and the NFB has done a great job of promoting it online.

SFF: What message or messages did you want to get across to the audience with Mabel?

TM: For me, Mabel is a trailblazer; a woman who not only broke barriers when she was young, but is also breaking barriers as a senior. Rooted in community, she is a celebration of doing what you love, of the importance of friendships and of staying active as you age.

 

Short Film Fan Review: This was a gem of a short documentary. It was heartwarming to see and experience the life of an extraordinary woman that came from a quiet place such as Hubbards, NS. Her focus and determination to get that career going as a young woman should be an inspiration to other young women and men. Conversely, those who are already lucky to be working in a career that they enjoy would want to think twice before considering retirement – why stop doing something you like to do just because you reach a certain age? The use of animated photos gave the documentary a certain charm that brought her past to life. Mabel is a short film that all can enjoy and it is certainly destined to become one of the National Film Board’s classic documentaries.

You Will Get Through It No Matter What In ‘Given Your History’ (2014)

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month in Canada. From coast to coast, Canadians will be encouraged to do all they can to help find a cure that will eliminate this life-threatening illness. From screenings to financial donations to adopting healthy lifestyles, everyone in the country has a chance to do their bit to fight against breast cancer.

Although the chances of beating breast cancer have been improving over the years, far too many women have succumbed to it. Often their death was untimely, leaving behind their children, spouses, and even their parents to live without them. Losing a family member at any time can be hard. For young children or young adults, it can be devastating as relationships can suffer and personal struggles can be overwhelming.

Molly McGlynn’s 15-minute short film, Given Your History (2014), is a profound and emotional portrayal of two sisters’ lives after their mother dies of breast cancer. In the beginning, we meet sisters Alanna (Katie Boland) and Colleen (Rachel Wilson), as they wait for their mother, Bridget (Valerie Buhagiar), to finish her rowing session with her Dragonboat team. When Colleen visits Alanna after their mother dies, internal and external conflicts soon emerge between them. For a sneak peek into the film, watch the trailer below:

 

Short Film Fan caught up with Molly and she shared some of her thoughts about the film:

Short Film Fan: What motivated or influenced you to make Given Your History?

Molly McGlynn: I  lost my mom to breast cancer almost ten years ago when I was 21, which is around the age Alanna’s character is supposed to be. Also, I am one of five girls and I wanted to make something that takes a glimpse into grief after the dust has settled a bit and how the loss of parent can affect sibling dynamics. It’s not autobiographical, but comes from a deeply personal place.

SFF:  What particular challenges did you face when making this short?

MM: Emotionally, I had to distance myself from my own narrative for the sake of the film. It was empowering and cathartic to direct a film based on such a difficult period in my life! Logistically, the dragon boats scenes were a little bit of a nail biter. I was insistent on using the Dragon’s Abreast team that you see in the film, which happens to be the team my mother was on. We shot in October and the very last weekend the boats could be out in the water was our shoot days. So, basically, if the weather did not cooperate, I’d lose the boat scenes which were so integral to the story. But, by good luck it was a chilly day and the sun was shining. We got what we needed.

SFF:  Given Your History was a deeply moving and emotional film. What has the audience reception towards the film been like since its release?

MM: Really good! A lot of people can relate to this narrative. I don’t want to label it a “cancer” film, but that is a central part of the story. Everyone has been lost or grieving something at some point, so I think people can see a little bit of themselves in it.

SFF:  What message did you want to get across to the audience with this film?

MM: I’m hesitant to want to push a “message” out with my work; more just show a truthful, honest story that may make the audience look at themselves or their life in a new way. If I had to name it, I guess it would be to say that ‘we’re all gonna be okay, no matter what you have to go through’.

 

Short Film Fan Review: Given Your History is definitely a stirring short. It is an educational film in that it shows how one can still find peace despite living through the sorrow that breast cancer can bring. The Dragonboat scenes also taught us that no one is alone when fighting a disease such as cancer. The film also underscores the fact that life must go on and that it does go on. Both Katie Boland and Rachel Wilson played very convincing roles as sisters, with the most realistic and intense moment taking place when Colleen is trying to calm down a very distraught Alanna in her bedroom. Given Your History is a must-see film for anyone struggling to deal with a loved one’s health battles or coping with the loss of a loved one.

We wish all the best to Molly and hope to see more short films from her in the future.256px-16mm_filmhjul

 

Keeping The New Artistic Pace Going: Spotlight On Katie Boland

Have you noticed how some people branch out into a variety of paths during their career? You might be working with someone right now who not only is committed to his or her day job, but who is also working on one or two side projects that complement their career path. There might be a sales representative in your office who also teaches a marketing course at night, for example. Being multi-faceted in one’s career requires hard work, time and perseverance. But, it also can add a certain depth and breadth to one’s career that can be personally satisfying and rewarding.

If you are thinking about widening your career path and are looking to draw some inspiration from someone in Canada’s film and television industry, look no further than Canadian actress, producer and writer Katie Boland. This young, dynamic and multi-talented actress from Toronto, ON, has an impressive and lengthy resume and has no plans to stop anytime soon. From short films and feature lengths, to web series and book publishing, Katie is highly passionate about and dedicated to her work.img_0526

When she’s not acting or writing, Katie runs the production company, Straight Shooters, with her mom and award-winning director, Gail Harvey. Before her father retired, Kevin Boland was a well-known journalist and a best-selling author. Katie’s career isn’t only limited to family influences, however; she also enjoys working with her friends and strangers alike in the industry.

Short Film Fan recently reached out to Katie during her very busy schedule to learn more about herself, her career and her insights into shorts films in Canada.

 

Short Film Fan: Who or what influenced you to become an actress?

Katie Boland: I knew I wanted to be an actress when I was three years old. My mother was a stills photographer at that time, and is now a very successful director. So, I think growing up being surrounded by the film industry must have had an impact. But, I would say my defining characteristic as a person is that I am obsessively curious. Even as a small I child all I wanted to do was ask other people questions.  So, I think, being an actress was always about trying to find answers to all the questions I had about people. It still is. I wanted to be an actress because I wanted to get to live as other people, to understand other people, to be able to ask and answer every question I had.

 

SFF:   What was the experience like when you trained as an actress?

KB: I didn’t really train as an actress. I have worked since I was about eight without any real break, so I didn’t train which sometimes I regret and other times I don’t. I learned on the job and have worked very closely with some amazing directors. Honestly, huge life experiences have been my greatest teachers. You go through a break up, you’re a better actress. You lose your grandfather, you’re a better actress. You go to therapy and deal with some of your b******t, you’re a better actress. You start writing; at first you write about yourself and then you get the confidence to write about some other people, you’re a better actress. The way I look at acting is that my experiences are my source material. Classes scare me. Maybe it’s part of my asking questions or that I’m rebellious, but I get freaked out by anyone who wants to be a ‘guru’. Anyone who covets that kind of power probably shouldn’t have it. I know some wonderful teachers; people who really help very impressionable and vulnerable young actors. But, I’ve also seen teachers destroy people. I have always taken what works for me and left the rest. I let life inform most of my work.

 

img_0527SFF:  Not only do you have multiple film and television credits, you’ve also written and produced the highly-praised web series Long Story, Short, published a book of short stories called Eat Your Heart Out and you were recently appointed by federal Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly to review Canada’s current cultural policies with a panel of other Canadian cultural experts. Where do you find the time and energy to work on all these projects?

KB: Truthfully, I’m tired but taking a day off freaks me out. Being this busy, things slip. I’m forgetful. My social life suffers, but my hope is that my life is only going to get fuller. I feel I don’t have a choice but to keep going at the pace I am. I think this is the new artistic model. I really admire James Franco because he’s not putting himself in a box. He’s doing it all. He directs, acts in everything from Oscar movies and soap operas, produces, writes fiction and has a dope Instagram. What I also really love about him is that he doesn’t seem to be super concerned with reception. I’m often of the mind that what other people think of your work isn’t really your business. To answer your question, I find the time to do a lot of things because all I do is work. I don’t really have the energy, but I push through anyway because I really love trying to do it all.

 

SFF:  You’ve been involved in a long and impressive list of short and feature-length films. How does acting in a short film compare with acting in a feature?

KB: In my mind, it’s the exact same. You’re just trying to be whatever person you’re playing, and you’re trying to serve the story as best you can. That’s how I look at it anyway, there’s no real difference.

 

SFF:  In the short film The Date by Mazi Khalighi, you starred as ‘Steph’ opposite Noah Reid, who played ‘Mike’. This film was definitely different, as all the acting took place in one spot: at a restaurant table. What was it like working on this unique film project?

KB: It was definitely very unique! Noah Reid is one of my favourite people and Mazi is a really good friend. So, we had a lot of fun. But we also improv-ed most of it and shot it in basically two set ups in one day. So, in a lot of ways, it felt like a play. We did really long takes.

 

SFF: In another short film, Given Your History by Molly McGlynn, you played ‘Alanna’, whose mother had passed away from breast cancer. There was a moment in the film that Alanna thought that she also may have breast cancer. How did you prepare for this challenging and moving role?

KB: Molly McGlynn is one of my best friends and she lost her mother to breast cancer. She wrote this short based on her experience, so to play a version of her was an incredible honour but also something I took really seriously. I love Molly so much and I know what a wonderful woman her mother was, so I really wanted to do it justice. It wasn’t hard to access the tragedy of the story. I didn’t find it challenging to be Alanna. Molly is such a good writer; all the tragedy and complicated feelings were on the page. Also, I’ve said this before in interviews I think, but right as we were shooting that short I was in a fevered grief state over a break up, so to finding that kind of sadness in myself wasn’t particularly difficult.

 

SFFimg_0530:  Besides acting in short films, you’ve also produced a number of them. What challenges have you faced as a producer of short films?

KB: I love producing short films! Last year I produced Boxing which premiered at TIFF, was a Sundance Short Film Select and was directed by two of my closest friends who I also have a film collective with: Aidan Shipley and Grayson Moore. I was in a feature they directed that we wrapped a few months ago called Cardinal. I also produced Lucy in Her Eyes; my best friend Megan Park’s directorial debut that is premiering at the Austin Film Festival in October! When producing Boxing, I worked alongside Mackenzie Donaldson who is a powerhouse producer and I learned a ton from her. The challenges are trying to pull everything together with a limited budget. But getting to watch my best friend’s work, to be involved on the ground level of that kind of talent; it’s so exciting. I’m so lucky.

 

SFF:  What is your most memorable moment working on a short film, either as an actress or a producer?

KB: Hm, this is a good one. We did a really long one take shot in Boxing that is a fight scene at the end of the movie. I think watching Aidan and Grayson’s joy when we finally got the take, watching the super talented cinematographer, Guy Godfree, pull it off; that was really exciting. Also, the scene where I’m lying in bed in Given Your History, next to Rachel Wilson who plays my sister – that was memorable. I was crying really hard about a lot of things and it felt cathartic. Just being lying down next to another human in that moment felt healing and devastating. It was weird but it was cool.

 

SFF:  In your opinion, what draws people to watch Canadian short films?

KB: I think short films are how our great film makers get started. How it usually works in Canada is you get funding a short film, like through bravoFact. Then, you get to go to Telefilm and try to make a feature. So, I think by watching Canadian short films, you’re discovering new voices. I also think it’s the art form that is, to be crude, the least f****d with. You aren’t dealing with a million notes from a million different people. You’re allowed to stay true to whatever vision you have as a filmmaker or a writer. That’s honestly very rare. So, I think people are drawn to the authenticity.

 

SFF:  Do you think short film viewership in Canada will grow in the future?

KB: I hope so. Sometimes I wonder what purpose short films really serve because no one is making money from them. But, I hope we continue to make them. I hope we keep funding bravoFact. bravoFact mandates that they give 50% of their money to female filmmakers. Maybe soon, Telefilm will follow suit. The truth is, we can take more risks on short films. Film and television are often risk-averse by design, so we need short films. It’s the least diluted art form we have. In Canada, in the arts, we need to take more risks.

 

SFF:  What new short or feature film projects can we look forward to seeing you in next?

KB: I have three films coming out this year: Cardinal, (directed by my best friends Aidan and Grayson), Love of my Life, a British-Canadian co-pro and Joseph and Mary, a biblical period piece. I also have television shows in development that I’ve created and am writing, so I hope one of them goes. It’s a long process. Megan Park and I just wrapped new web series called We’re Adults Now that we’re shooting in New York City! We co-wrote, co-created, co-directed and co-starred in We’re Adults Now and I am truly excited about it. I also wrote a short film called Lolz-Ita that I got bravoFact funding for and we shoot in December. Last year, I produced a documentary that was directed by my mother, Gail Harvey, on Rickie Lee Jones, called The Other Side of Desire that is now available on iTunes and Amazon. My mom and I are also shooting a movie this winter based on a Linwood Barclay novel called Never Saw it Coming.

 

img_0528SFF:  Do you have any advice for any up-and-coming actors and actresses in Canada?

KB: Yes! If there’s anything else that will make you happy, do that. But if there’s not – congratulations you’re in for a wild ride! Try and make things with your friends. You can do it. I did. If it’s bad, who cares, just get better. Your only job is to try to be as good as you can possibly be. Focus on that; don’t focus on being famous. Try and be good; that will lead you to the right crowds and the right mentors. That’s the right energy to be in. Other actors and creative people are your best friends and greatest allies. My best friends are other actresses. We are each other’s greatest support. You need to understand that there is room for everyone and that people rise up together. Dream big, and as Drake says, get the jokers out of your deck. Lots of people are going to tell you why you can’t do it. The only reason I’ve had any success at all is because I’ve persevered. Try and recognize that no matter where you are, there are challenges. They just shift and take different shapes. It’s always going to be difficult, so try to enjoy where you are right now. Also, good luck!

 

Katie’s enterprising and enduring nature is very inspiring. As she previously mentioned, being involved in multiple projects can makes one’s life too busy, but it is becoming the new norm in acting. The same can be said about other professional careers, as well. Having many projects on the go is also perhaps the best way to make sure one does not get bored or complacent in their career and life path.

We’re looking forward to seeing more of Katie’s work on screen and in print. There has been much written previously about Katie being the next rising star nationally and internationally. With her drive, talents and successes, Katie Boland will definitely become a household name much sooner than anyone could anticipate.

 

P.S. Readers: Next month, SFF will review Molly McGlynn’s Given Your History which starred Katie Boland and Rachel Wilson. Stay tuned!

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‘The Frozen Goose’ (2016) Explores War’s Effect On Rural Canadian Family

Turn to any news source these days, whether it is an app on your smartphone, your television or radio, or even a printed newspaper, grim stories of world war and conflict emanate from them all. Unfortunately, war and conflict are still a part of our daily lives, despite any past efforts or platitudes made to stop them. For example, World War I was touted to be the ‘war to end all wars’ when it occurred between 1914 and 1918. But, as history shows, World War II followed from 1939 until 1945 with countless other conflicts taking place since then.

It is no secret that wars take their toll on people’s lives. Soldiers in the field as well as relatives back home suffer the consequences of the brutalities of war. For soldiers returning home from a conflict, the pain and suffering does not end. In fact, their struggles continue as they try to reintegrate back into regular society. Margaret Lindsay Holton’s short film The Frozen Goose takes a look at one particular family’s attempt at dealing with post-war trauma.

In this 25-minute short, Tom (John Fort) returns to Canada after serving at Vimy Ridge with his friend (David C. MacLean). After his friend dies in battle, Tom promises to take care of his friend’s wife, Helen (Leslie Grey), and his two children, Bella and Charlie (Hannah Ralph and Cameron Brindle). While Tom tries to find his place within the family and in life, Bella and Charlie take matters into their own hands.

The Frozen Goose will be making its Canadian premiere at the Art Gallery of Burlington at 3 p.m. on September 11th. But before this first public screening, Short Film Fan reached out to Lindsay for some of her thoughts about the short, including the challenges experienced while making it and what she hopes the audience will take away from it.

 

Short Film Fan:  What motivated you to make The Frozen Goose?

Margaret Lindsay Holton: I had been shooting short (under 15 minute) documentaries of interesting characters and locations for the past 5 years for local news outlets, and decided I wanted to step up my game and attempt a ‘scripted’ work. To that end, and as I am self-taught, I wanted to be sure I had a ‘good story’ out-of-the-gate.TFG mlh POSTER

My short story, ‘The Frozen Goose’, was first printed as the last story in a well-received WWI anthology in 2014 called ‘ENGRAVED: Canadian Short Stories of World War One’, published by Seraphim Books. This is a very good place to be – the ‘last story’ in any collection is proof positive that it is a ‘good story’; otherwise the editor wouldn’t have placed it there.

On the strength of that, I then scripted The Frozen Goose. After several readers had read the story, and some small adjustments, it was ‘locked’ as a screenplay in August of 2015.  I knew I was ready.

SFF: Where was The Frozen Goose filmed, mainly?

MLH: The film was shot entirely in Southern Ontario, around the Golden Horseshoe region, (comprising Hamilton, Burlington, Milton and a ‘heritage village’, Westfield, in Rockton, Ontario.)

SFF: What were some of the challenges you faced with making this film?

MLH: The most challenging was the capriciousness of the weather. Ten days before the scheduled shoot there was no snow on the ground. There was no ice on the chosen lake. I was frantically considering alternatives:  shooting on fake snow at a nearby ski resort or using large green screens or postponing the shoot altogether.

But luckily, and literally overnight with plummeting temperatures, it snowed for three days straight. It also snowed, remarkably ‘on cue’, while we were shooting our final scenes. Unfortunately, it was not quite cold enough for the lake to freeze up properly given such a short time frame. So, for safety reasons, I opted for an available shallow frozen pond for the last day. We did manage it, but just!

The second challenge was the budget. In retrospect, it was a pretty ambitious period film, done on a mini-micro budget of $11,000.  If I was to remake this work, I’d definitely start with more cash on hand. But, in some respects, I wouldn’t have known that until I tried it. Hindsight is 20/20.

SFF: The recruitment posters definitely gave the film the authentic period look. Where did you find them?

MLH: I researched online, found a number of ‘public domain’ images from the Public Archives of Canada, downloaded them, tweaked them to the right size and dpi, and then printed out 10 for the interior store set. They look ‘new’ and authentic to the period because they were, in fact, freshly printed.  Here’s an example: http://www.archives.gov.on.ca/en/explore/online/posters/big/big_31_war_poster.aspx

SFF: Do you feel that rescue near the end was what Tom needed to finally affirm his place in the family?

MLH: Yes. It was my intent from the onset to have him as a somewhat ambiguous character with audience unsure whether to like or loathe him. (i.e. Did Helen’s husband actually take a bullet so that he could live?) After the war, he was damaged and broken; tormented and locked in a kind of emotional exile. He was suffering a form of PTSD, or, ‘shell shock’ (as it was called back then.) He was trying to adjust, fit in and help. But, he was failing on all fronts.

His redemption comes at the very end when he steps in to save the children. We get a glimmer of the better man that he really is. It is slowly understood that Helen’s hero-husband chose him to look after the family for very good reason. There is hope for all, after all.

SFF: What messages or lessons would you like the audience to take away from The Frozen Goose?

MLH: Initially, warfare may seem ‘glorious’ and ‘heroic’; even fun for some. But, the brutal reality is this: war shatters humanity on every level.

It doesn’t matter if it is World War I, II, or III. Real war – not Hollywood make-believe war, but REAL war that intends to kill others or be killed in the killing – demands far too great a sacrifice from us all. Loved ones die and, really, for what purpose? A momentary ‘killer high’? To just ‘win’? For whose greater glory? Bragging rights? Nationalism? Ideology? A flag? A religion? Territory or resource securement?

Surely, at this point in our combined evolution, we, as one species on this planet, can and should know how to live better amongst ourselves.

War also clearly has reverberating repercussions that extend far beyond the immediacy of a ‘battle field’. In this instance, even though only one of the characters of this story was at the ‘front line’, every character has been damaged. Grief, fear, anger, uncertainty and all the torments of unsettled minds churn in the tail-winds of war.

Peace – true peace of mind and spirit – can only be achieved when the ferocious ‘wolves of war’, real and imagined, are banished forever from our hearts and our minds.

This is not a fairy tale fantasy. It is a choice we can all make about living and life.

 

Short Film Fan Review: The Frozen Goose is definitely a timely film, even though it was set after World War I. Today’s Canadian soldiers returning home from conflicts in Afghanistan face similar issues with PTSD, as recent news reports have uncovered. It is also timely in that April 2017 will mark 100 years since the Battle of Vimy Ridge took place. The Frozen Goose would be perfect to use in educating future audiences about PTSD issues as well as the Vimy Ridge conflict itself. Finally, as previously mentioned, the posters in the shop short were an excellent addition for a post-war look and feel.

If you would like to attend the premiere of The Frozen Goose, click on this link to order your tickets: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/the-frozen-goose-canadian-premiere-at-art-gallery-of-burlington-ontario-tickets-26037813802

For more information about film and about Lindsay, visit her website at http://mlhproductions.weebly.com/

You can also follow The Frozen Goose on Twitter and Facebook.

All the best to Lindsay and everyone else involved in The Frozen Goose for a successful premiere on September 11!

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Follow Atikamekw Man’s Road To Redemption In ‘Red Path’ (2015)

It is well-known that Canadian society is made up of a variety of ethnic cultures. Canada’s long-standing policy of multiculturalism allows each individual Canadian the opportunity to explore and promote his or her ethnic background in a variety of ways, from attending language courses to participating in cultural festivals. For many Canadians, connecting with one’s ethnic background is a source of pride and identity. It can also help someone figure out where they have come from, make sense of the present, and chart a new course for his or her future.

Atikamekw First Nation filmmaker Thérèse Ottawa’s documentary short Red Path (Le chemin rouge), released in 2015, is an emotional look at a young Atikamekw man’s life journey of redemption, forgiveness and farsightedness. In this 15-minute film produced by the NFB’s Johanne Bergeron, Tony Chachai recalls his, as well as his mother’s, substance abuse during his formative years. Forgiving his mother and filled with a strong desire for change, Tony recounts his mother’s final request: that he would become a dancer. Tony’s cousin, Ronny Chachai, is instrumental in helping him learn to dance, thereby connecting Tony to his Atikamekw roots.  Watch the film below:

From start to finish, there was a sense of peace, hope and optimism emanating from Tony in the film. It was fascinating to see Ronny conduct the ceremonial prayer with Tony. It was also heartwarming to see Tony visit his mother’s grave in his dancers clothing, conversing with her and revealing to her that his partner will be giving birth to her grandchild. Finally, seeing Tony dance with his cousin Ronny showed his ultimate connection with his culture, enabling him to move forward to become, in his own words, a role model for others.

Red Path premiered at  Présence Autochtone in 2015, where it  received special mentions in the Best Short Film and Télé-Québec Best Choice Award categories. Since then, it has been featured at the Rendez-vous du cinéma québécois, the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival, San Francisco’s American Indian Film Festival, Vancouver’s DOXA Documentary Film Festival as well as the Yorkton Film Festival, where it received the Golden Sheaf Award in the Multicultural category.

Red Path is compelling and encouraging; it is highly recommended to anyone who is seeking to let go of the past, reconnect with one’s self in the present, and go forward with a renewed sense of purpose for the future. It is also an educational glimpse into life on Atikamekw First Nation. Good luck to Thérèse in her future filmmaking career.

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