Let’s go: Skoden Indigenous Film Festival

Carr Sappier, SFU School for the Contemporary Arts (SCA) film grad, says the Skoden Film Festival revolves around the Truth and Reconciliation Act but that there are also a variety of themes beyond that.

“What is special about the Indigenous cinema is that there is no boundary, there is no such thing as genre; it is kind of like you paint on a canvas, but you are also not afraid to go off it and paint on the wall”, says Sappier. “It is more than just filming something – it is about connecting to the people who are making the film with you and the place where you are filming it. It is also about how we can use the film to build relationships and to bring up discussions that are hard to talk about.”

The third annual student-led Skoden Indigenous Film Festival will go live on Mar. 26 and run until Apr. 5, 2021, showcasing films made by Indigenous creators.

A growing festival

Co-founded by Sappier in their last year at SFU in 2019 with a spirit of ‘let’s go then’ (Skoden), the film festival has gradually grown in the last few three years and received more than 100 submissions this year.

“After I graduated, we were able to turn it into an SFU course, to make it student-led, and to ensure the festival continues,” says Sappier, who is also a co-instructor of the course. “In the first year we only accepted films within B.C., and the second year we opened it to Canada-wide and this year we are able to host a Q and A session for every filmmaker who is having a film showing.”

They adds that the pandemic has been an interesting time for filmmakers as many are slowing down and reflecting on who they are. Sappier says this quality is shown in many of this year’s films as filmmakers are looking at the world in a more poetic way.

Authentic Indigenous representation

With two of her films – made with grants from Telus Storyhive – featured in this year’s festival, Diana Hellson is advocating for authentic representation of Indigenous culture and issues through her works. She is the founder of Afro-Indigenous multimedia group Rudegang Entertainment and a multidisciplinary artist proficient in film, design, theatre and dance.

Hellson’s first film, Redman, was inspired by archival images of Coast Salish people she stumbled upon from the Museum of Vancouver and was also turned into a music video of Coast Salish rapper Hope, who is speaking from the perspective of an Indigenous man living in a modern colonized Canada according to Hellson.

Diana Hellson advocates for authentic representation of Indigenous culture
and issues.| Photo courtesy of Diana Hellson

“Coast Salish culture deserves more media representation, as a Blackfoot director, I really want to show the different aspects of Coast Salish culture in a way that the Blackfoot culture is shown,” says Hellson.

She adds that she was really surprised by the cultural differences among the different Indigenous communities when she moved to Vancouver after growing up in Alberta.

“I was never exposed to Indigenous culture that is different than Blackfoot or Cree people and when I started seeing Coast Salish people after I moved here, I realized because of the media stereotype, we only see the totem poles but we don’t know that much from them culturally,” she says.

Hellson’s next film The Foundation: Indigenous Hip Hop in Canada, also tries to provide an honest and multifaceted representation of Indigenous hip hop artists and their struggles while raising some thought-provoking questions on what it means to be an Indigenous musician.

An ambitious project featuring both established and emerging Indigenous hip hop artists in Canada, the seven-hour footage had to be edited down to a 10-minute documentary.

“The film is tasked to explore the question ‘what is Indigenous hip hop’? Why is it called that and what is the difference and if there is a difference? And how do Indigenous artists feel about that?” says Hellson, including that the film is also to show there is a reason for the sub-genre to exist, but is not necessarily a good thing as may pigeonhole Indigenous artists who just want to make music.

The film has just won an award for best documentary at the Get it Made Film Festival in L.A. and was also showcased at VIFF 2020.

For more information, please visit the following sites: www.sfu.ca/sca/projects—activities/skoden-indigenous-