Winnipeg Aboriginal Film Festival Showcases CBC's 8th Fire and Dozens of Others

Vincent Schilling
11/20/11

Is it possible to move forward after 500 years of strained relationships often shot through with antipathy? CBC’s four-part television documentary series 8th Fire examines that and more. It’s an attempt to frame a new relationship between Canada’s aboriginals and Canadians and move forward into the future.

The series supports the coming together of aboriginal peoples and the settler community to build the 8th Fire of peace, justice and harmony, exploring the Anishinaabe Seven Fires prophecy. This is one of dozens of highlights of the 10th annual Winnipeg Aboriginal Film Festival (WAFF), which began on November 16 and wraps up on the 20th.

With original music composed by Cris Derksen and tracks by Winnipeg’s Most, the rap group that recently cleaned up at the Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Awards, 8th Fire packed the house, according to its Facebook page.

It would be hard to top a stereotype-busting documentary series’ debut, but having Chris Eyre, director of the American Indian cult classic Smoke Signals, on hand is one way to try, and there he was at WAFF.

Lauded as the third-largest festival in North America—a showcase for the best in indigenous film and video in Canada, the U.S. and around the world—WAFF as usual delivered an exciting lineup of the best from seasoned and aspiring aboriginal filmmakers and includes anniversary screenings and the top films from the past 10 years.

Eyre’s 1998 Smoke Signals, which accurately portrayed life on American Indian reservations, became an unofficial anthem of American Indian and Indigenous Peoples. Eyre also created several award-winning films, including Skins (2002), Edge of America (2003), A Thousand Roads (2005) and Imprint (2007). He set a new standard among American Indian filmmakers when he received the prestigious Director’s Guild of America Award for outstanding directorial achievement.

According to its website, “the WAFF is thrilled to announce that renowned filmmaker Chris Eyre is confirmed to attend and participate in WAFF’s 10th Anniversary Festival as a special guest and will be featured as one of WAFF’s keynote speakers. The site also noted that People magazine has called Chris Eyre “the preeminent Native American filmmaker of his time” and Geoff Gilmore, Director of the Sundance Film Festival has called Eyre “a great American filmmaker.”

Other slated films include Here I Am, about an aboriginal woman adjusting to life fresh out of prison, and Bran Nue Dae, a romantic comedy set in Australia, starring Academy Award winner Geoffrey Rush. The film is based on one of Australia’s most popular musicals.

In addition to the features, shorts, documentaries and music videos being shown, WAFF is also conducting Youth Education Days with workshops in music video production, Claymation, story development, art and make-up, and journalism.

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