ImagiNATIVE is doing something different this year by opening their festival with a shorts program. They name their shorts program with the colors of the Indigenous medicine wheel. The opening program is Yellow, which is the best program so far. I also got into the weeds of what the colors meant and let’s be real, the symbolism here is mutable. But what I see from these shorts, there’s a lot of convergence among the past, present and the future of Indigenous life. Those manifest through the sights and sounds these films capture.
Relationships are the key in Theola Ross’s Emicetocet: MANY BLOODLINES. She and her partner Stefani Bersinic narrate what makes their relationships strong, especially at the stage where they want to have a child. There’s something very genuine and lived in in this short that I appreciate. The short also shows both women’s commitment to raise their child with as much of Ross’ Cree culture.
Jack Steele incorporates his Wiradjuri perspective in Between Two Lines. An Indigenous Australian, Burt (Clarence Ryan), finds himself in the No Man’s Land at the Western Front. Burt shares food with a German he calls Fritz (Julian Felix). It has the feel of a one man show, where Burt and the audience at first don’t see ‘Fritz’. The short itself is as textural as most WWI films are.
Preservation is a key First Nations issue, and Ngariti Ngatae’s Te Wao Nui shows just that. Aoteaora (New Zealand) is home to great Kauri trees but there are risks to these trees that have been around for centuries. Tohe Ashby is one of the people doing the work to preserve the trees, but this isn’t just 11 minutes of him in the forest. Ngariti also shows him making whale bone ointment, which I think he thinks might help the trees. I also like this film for recording Ashby speak Maori, which is fascinating. I can hear at least one Maori word that sounds like Tagalog, which makes sense since both are Austronesian languages.
Speaking of languages, Banchi Hanuse’s Nuxalk Radio shows the many ways that the Nuxalk people preserve their language. Nuxalk, by the way, only has less than 20 speakers. There are actual classes, radio shows, bingo nights. There’s a welcome succinctness in this short.
The longest short in this program is Audrey’s Story, and there’s a haunting beauty to the story of Audrey Anderson. She’s an Indigenous woman who died under suspicious circumstances in 1972. Anishnaabe filmmaker Michelle Derosiers incorporates mood respectfully while narrating the recent move to investigate the suspicious deaths of Indigenous women.
Kapaemahu, by Joe Wilson and Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, brings a different beauty. It tells the story of the titular healer and three others with them. These four healers both have female and male spirits and they pass their powers on to four rocks. Wilson and Wong-Kalu bring that ritual to like, their 2D hand animation making light wonderfully look like lasers.
The final film is The Fourfold by Alisi Telengut. Tengrism is a religion that Genghis Khan once practiced but now its practitioners are a few, including some Telengut people like the animator. There’s narration explaining Tengrist beliefs but for the most part Telengut, wisely, lets her textural visuals speak for themselves.
- Rated: NR
- Genre: Action, Animation, documentary, Short
- Release Date: 10/20/2020
- Directed by: Alisi Telengut, Banchi Hanuse, Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Jack Steele, Michelle Derosier, Ngariki Ngatae, Theola Ross
- Starring: Clarence Ryan, Julian Felix
- Produced by: Alex Bailey, Joe Wilson, Karen Sidney, Mitchell Stanley
- Written by: Alisi Telengut, Jack Steele
- Studio: Kanaka Pakipika, Lantern Films, Notable Pictures, Thunderstone Pictures