Hatuey Viveros Lavielle/IMCINE/YouTube
Scene from Café, a portrait of an indigenous family in Mexico after the father's death, won the Teueikan Grand Prize at the Montreal First Peoples Festival 2015.

Mexico Films Top Montreal First Peoples Festival Awards [Video]

Theresa Braine

Mexico won big at the Montreal First Peoples Festival this year, garnering many of the awards announced as the 25th edition of the annual indigenous extravaganza wound down.

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Café (Cantos del Humo), a nonfiction work depicting what an indigenous family in Mexico goes through after the father’s death, won the festival’s Teueikan Grand Prize.

“A view of time immemorial in a civilization whose roots extend to the depths of human settlement of the Americas is the backdrop of this film,” the festival organizers said in their announcement. The film, directed by Hatuey Viveros Lavielle, also won for best documentary.

“This weight of history provides the film with a strong incantatory power” as it depicts life in the village of San Miguel Tzinacapan, where “each gesture, each tone of voice, each glance is a part of a continuum in which the smallest aspects of everyday life take on a ceremonial value,” the festival notes said, further extolling “its espousal of the silent rhythms of labors and days and making visible the age-old ties uniting dead and living in a Nahua family’s intimate life, in an indigenous Mexican community.”

Mexico also took top honors in the short-film category, with the 17-minute Alma y Esperanza, directed by Itandehui Jansen, which used “refined cinematographic language” to recount a first-time meeting between an elderly woman and her granddaughter. Alma y Esperanza won for Best Short Subject, along with Los Hilos de la Vida de las Mujeres Jaguar, a compilation by Mujeres Mayas KAQLA, also from Mexico.

“Beyond the depressing observations about harsh situations experienced by too many Amerindian women, the film is a call to look beyond today’s problems and invite women to draw upon traditional wisdom and spirituality to find the courage to change matters collectively,” the festival organizers said of the 21-minute work.

The Rigoberto Menchu grand prize went to Le Rêve d'Okpik, which profiles a physically disabled Inuit man who becomes a champion musher and dogsled breeder, along the way reintroducing the animals into indigenous daily life.

“This is an exploit that becomes an allegory in a film that extolls the ancestral virtues of endurance and bravery that enabled humans to survive in the starkest of landscapes and develop unique cultures there,” the festival organizers said in awarding the Rigoberta Menchu first prize to “a work harnessed to hope.” Directed by Laura Rietveld, the film “takes our gaze to broad horizons of renewal,” the festival statement said.

Latin American films in general did well, with the Bolivian-made Yvy Maraey (Land Without Evil), directed by Juan Carlos Valdivia, also getting two awards: It took the second-place Teueikan Prize, as well as receiving a nod for best cinematography.

Also taking top honors was Comer del Monte, directed by Andrea Ruffini, about Indigenous People in Paraguay’s Chaco region watching their lifeways and foodstuffs “disappear before their eyes” in the face of massive deforestation, the festival said in bestowing the award.

“For a documentary unflinchingly exposing the effects of uncontrolled settlement on one of the last virgin territories of the planet, for its attention to the dietary knowledge and ecological wisdom of indigenous practices,” the film won the second-place Rigoberta Menchu prize.

The Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN), besides sponsoring several workshops for budding filmmakers, gave its Achievement Award for outstanding work over the previous year. In its second year, it went to Tracey Deer for the television series Mohawk Girls, a fictional spinoff of a documentary of the same name. The series has earned comparisons to Sex and the City.

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“It’s quite a treacherous twisting road from documentary to fiction,” said the festival’s release. “This shift in gears has been made brilliantly by the director of a remarkable TV series that provides a funny and intelligent look at contemporary Aboriginal women, with no taboos.”

The festival ran from July 29 through August 5. See the festival website for a full list of winners, honorable mentions and nominees.

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