By Sam Laskaris
An award-winning film about a young Siksika woman who participates in Indian relay horse races is among the Indigenous movies at this year’s Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival.
The Toronto-based festival began last Thursday and continues until May 7.
More than 200 documentaries from around the world will be screened at the 10-day festival.
Aitamaako’tamisskapi Natosi: Before the Sun had its world premiere at the Big Sky Documentary Festival in Montana in February. The film was awarded that festival’s prestigious Big Sky Award.
The 90-minute film had its first of two screenings at the Toronto festival this past Saturday. It will also be shown on Wednesday (today) May 3 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox at 3 p.m.
The film will also be available May 5-9 for those who choose to stream it.
Aitamaako’tamisskapi Natosi: Before the Sun features Logan Red Crow, a competitor in the Indian Relay world, a sport usually dominated by males that see riders do laps of horse tracks. The length of races varies but competitors must jump off a horse and onto another one for each lap.
Red Crow’s father and other family members are part of her racing team.
“The bonds between Logan as rider, the team who takes care of the horses, and Logan’s family, have to be unbreakable for Logan to be a contender in such dangerous events,” said Banchi Hanuse in her director’s statement for the film. “Logan Red Crow has a loving and dedicated family behind her including a profoundly deep connection with her father. It is the intense journey – the celebrations, the heartbreaks and the teachings – leading up to the races that pulls the audience along intimately with Logan, and the horses, and everyone who has helped them prepare. In essence, the film Aitamaako’tamisskapi Natosi: Before the Sun is an Indigenous story about love and one we do not see often enough.”
Meanwhile, another movie making its world premiere at the Hot Docs festival is Hebron Relocation, from filmmaker Holly Andersen. She lives in Makkovik, a town in Nunatiavut, which is an autonomous area claimed by the Inuit in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Andersen’s film is about the more than 200 Inuit who were forced to relocate from their Labrador community of Hebron in 1959.
Many of those who were forced to move ended up in Makkovik. In her film Andersen interviews family members and friends of those who were relocated.
And she realized it is still a sensitive subject for some.
“Still to this day there is generational trauma going on,” Andersen said. “I wanted to make sure that if those who were relocated were watching this, it wouldn’t trigger anything.”
Hebron Relocation will have two screenings at Hot Docs, May 3 and May 7.
Other Indigenous films at the festival include Ancestral Threads and Janelle Niles: Inconvenient.
Ancestral Threads features former model Joleen Mitton who uses fashion as a form of medicine for Vancouver’s Indigenous community. Mitton is the founder of Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week.
Janelle Niles: Incovenient is an eight-minute film, primarily recorded at a Toronto diner, about Niles, who is an Indigenous/Black, two-spirit comic.