Skoden’s beacon of reconciliation

Photo courtesy of Skoden Indigenous Film Festival

For three days, the Skoden Indigenous Film Festival (SIFF) will be celebrating Indigenous filmmakers across Canada while also promoting SFU’s interests in diversity and reconciliation. It will also feature Indigenous cultural traditions including a welcome ceremony and witness.

Skoden is a slang term which means “let’s go then!” The film festival was founded in 2019 by Carr Sappier and Grace Mathisen who were both students at Simon Fraser University’s (SFU) School for Contemporary Arts. The festival is located on the Musqueam, Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, Kwikwetlem, Katzie, Qayqayt, Semiahmoo and Tsawwassen First Nation territories.

This year, Skoden aims to achieve its purpose by presenting a three-day film festival from Mar. 31 to Apr. 2. On Mar.31, there will be eight short films at the SFU Surrey Campus. This day is called the “Skoden Sampler.” On Apr. 1 and 2, there will be five programs: Stoodis! (Let’s Do This!), Evolution Revolution, Carrying The Fire, Where We’ve Come From & Where We‘re Going and the Skoden! (Let’s Go Then!) programs.

Connecting with others

The intent of Skoden is to represent Indigenous peoples in the film industry where they have been ignored for ages. The filmmakers are respected and celebrated at this festival while also promoting film at SFU.

To open the festival, Skoden will present seven short films about Indigenous experience through mixed media, documentary and narrative films from Indigenous filmmakers across the country. Connecting to the land, culture, art practices and self are among topics explored in the program.

Still from ANGAKUSAJAUJUQ – SHAMAN’S APPRENTICE (2021). | Photo courtesy of Skoden Indigenous Film Festival

“There were so many amazing films submitted to us this year which was definitely a highlight, but it was also a challenge to decide which ones to include. We are learning more and more each year. We had a big focus this year on reaching out to schools in the area to get more youth involved which is important to our Skoden values,” says Akira Iahtail (Swampy Cree from Attawapiskat and Métis) who is one of this year’s festival curators.

The festival’s closing program will screen six films taking place across Turtle Island. The mix of documentary and animation on oral history and tradition peaks in a message of strength and resilience, justice and reconciliation.

In terms of reconciliation, Iahtail underlines that it is a “two-way street between Indigenous peoples and non-Indigenous peoples; it involves working actively with the community to create more spaces for conversations and relationship building.”

Community and reconciliation

Iahtail, among other festival curators, hopes that the SFU community will be even more engaged this year as the COVID-19’s impact is decreasing. The festival’s organisers chose to use both SFU campus locations to ensure more people have access to the festival and so there is more exposure. The SFU community has been very engaged with the festival and its messaging, as faculty members have been helping with the planning of this year’s SIFF. Festival co-creator Carr Sappier (Wolastoqew) recognizes that SFU has acknowledged that it must create a safe space for Indigenous storytellers on Turtle Island.

“SIFF is able to foster a strong sense of community within and outside the walls of SFU,” says Sappier, adding that the effort from all parties and the conversations that have been generated as a result of this engagement have been some of their top highlights.

The festival has both Indigenous, non-Indigenous representation and diverse voices from all backgrounds and ages. The festival is also a forum for conversations regarding reconciliation. Skoden is one facet of reconciliation.

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