CFF 2024: Our Review of ‘WaaPaKe’

Posted in Festival Coverage by - March 23, 2024
CFF 2024: Our Review of ‘WaaPaKe’

This piece on this documentary is coming out the morning of its release for this year’s Canadian Film Festival. It’s almost a week away from when I watched it during a weekend when all I watched was other Indigenous works. Those other two works are Kanehsatake: 207 Years of Resistance and Little Bird, both ‘contemporaneous’ works. This documentary is a different experience from those other two works. WaaPaKe interviews three generations of firsthand and secondhand residential school survivors. For context, this documentary is coming out 28 years after the last residential school closed its doors.

It’s recent enough of a history, but somehow, this is enough time for these survivors to look at each other and themselves with hindsight. One of Waapake‘s subjects is Joseph, a child of a survivor. He speaks about how his mother processes trauma in ways better than how settlers can speak of their own. The stories in WaaPaKe are affecting but sometimes, its storytelling techniques can be distracting, depending on the viewer. Letterboxd’s Francophones really zeroed in on the bad CGI work and green screen, and admittedly, that also took me a while.

I had bigger problems during the fourth wall break where the director puts herself in the interviewer’s seat. But then I got over that quickly because Jules Arita Koostachin somehow makes for a good interview subject. She talks about how her family hid her grandmother from the government but they got her mother anyway. There’s something cyclical about her story, that just because a generation skipped oppression doesn’t mean the next one isn’t in the clear. A government, even a political party, who apologises for atrocities, can do all of this again. Stories like this can make us more vigilant, but the documentary, thankfully, focuses more on how to heal.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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