Monday, January 25, 2016

Skabmagovat


So just what is the sound of a hundred mittens clapping?

I found this out on my first night in the Snow Theatre, at the opening of the film festival. It's deep and powerful and far heavier than hands alone. It's oddly joyful. Sure, maybe it's -40 and our eyelashes are frozen, but we just watched a brilliant short, Moe Clark is singing Buffy Ste Marie in Cree, little kids from the town have stood up in their seats and started to dance, and the polar moon is oh so bright. It's worth it. Every second.

I am currently hiding out in a cafe in the Inari hotel, checked out of my cabin and trying to avoid the cold in the 3 hours-ish before my bus comes, so I have a lot of time to gather my thoughts and really give these films their due. It was a really impressive line-up, and I imagine many of them will not be easily accessible. (Note to self - spend lots of time at ImagineNative next year. I didn't know it was happening until it was basically done, AND it was the year of the Sami spotlight! Kicks self.) So I feel very lucky to have seen these - I really do.

I thought for a while about how to categorize the films, and have decided to go by region (as the festival organizes it), as a chronological list would be very back-and-forth. This took place over three and a half days, at four venues (three indoor, one outdoor) in Inari, including the Sami parliament at Sajos, which was really neat to see. 


The films were mostly fictional shorts with a few features included, along with documentaries, music videos and children's films. Let's take a look.

(A note about language - I've tried my best to be faithful to the names of the films and filmmakers, but my iPod simply doesn't accommodate all the different alphabets and diacritics, so I simply took the names as listed in the program minus the accents. My apologies to anyone reading this, and I sincerely hope I didn't accidentally swear in another language. I apologize as well for any errors my Autocorrect makes, as it is long proven to be an inaccurate dumbass. Also, shorts are in quotes, features are in italics, regardless of genre or content.)

On to the movies!

Australia/Pacific

This is a fun one for me, as I've always admired Australian and New Zealand cinema - they put a lot of effort into establishing it, and have unleashed some of the best and most original talent on the world. I saw the first two in "Kanada I: Embargo", which does not necessarily relate to Canada, but rather to the Embargo film movement based in that country, which attracts filmmakers from all over. This year the emphasis was heavy on humour, some of it with a sad note. I particularly enjoyed Taika Waititi's "The White Tiger" (2009, NZ), which involved a parody of getting funding from Embargo and quickly grew more serious. Waititi's timing is excellent. Later that day, in an Australia-specific programme, "Tjawa Tjawa" (Mark Moora, 2015) retold a story from the Dreamtime with humour and great inventiveness, while The Redfern Story (Darlene Johnson, 2014) - one of my personal favourites - documented the history of an Aboriginal theatre in 1970s Sydney. Their work was both highly political and scathingly funny, and they did have a huge impact on Australian society, which was in the midst of a great call for Aboriginal rights. 

My very last programme at Skabmagovat was an Australia-Pacific collection, which included the mesmerizing Maori music video "Taniwha" (Mika Haka, 2015, NZ) and the eerie, dreamy "Karroyul" (Kelrick Martin, 2015, Australia). "Ow What!" (Michael Jonathan, 2015, NZ) told the story of a rugby-obsessed kid who finds himself the sole caretaker of his siblings (at the ripe old age of 12), and was funny and poignant all at once, mostly due to the performance of the young lead actor. "Dark Whispers" (Ngaire Pigram, Australia, 2014) is heartwrenching and almost too difficult to watch - but very powerful. However, my favourite of the afternoon was "A Place in the Middle" Dean Hamet/Joe Wilson, 2015, USA), from Hawaii, which centres around a Hawaiian-language public school and a young girl who identifies as having male and female tendencies, a role previously honoured and accepted in Hawaiian society. Her teacher, Kumu Hina, is incredibly encouraging and helps her reach her potential, to the point where she becomes a leader to other boys much older than herself. This documentary short was truly excellent, giving us a real sense of this girl's dedication and strength in finding her place. I would love to see a follow-up later on, but for now I highly recommend watching this. Overall, the Australia-Pacific region produced some very strong material this year.


The Americas

This year's spotlight was on the Navajo film scene, but I only made it to one feature and one short, both directed by Blackhorse Lowe, who has an offbeat sense of humour and a great sense of everyday life. He put me in mind of Robert Altman. That said, I wasn't so keen on his feature, Chasing the Light (2015), which kind of dragged a bit (the jet lag might also have been kicking in for me at this point). I liked his short "B. Dreams" (2009) though, and would love to see more of his work. I hear he's coming out with a horror film next - will definitely be on the lookout!

Apart from the Navajo spotlight and the Hawaiian film in the Australia-Pacific category, the only other American films I saw were "Istinma - To Rest" (Andres Torres-Vives, 2013), a short from the Lakota nation about a complicated father-son relationship, and "Cepanvkuce Tutcenen" (Sterling Harjo, 2009), a delightful movie in Cree about three young boys who go around town getting into little-boy mishaps until their uncle rounds them up and brings them to church for some straightening up. Of course, they completely fail to behave there too, and use the uncle's stern lectures as inspiration for more mishaps. I was basically giggling the whole time, as was most of the audience, and I especially loved the performances of the three leads. Any movie that can portray childhood well, and honestly, is an accomplishment in my book.

The first programme I attended, after the opening, was "Americas: Chile to Canada", which is exactly what it sounds like - they worked their way from Chile upward. Unfortunately, this was almost all I saw from Central and South America. "Challwan Kvzaw" (Collectice of Mapuche Youth Escuela de Cine Y Comunicacion Mapuche del Aylla Rewe Budi, 2015, Chile) spoke beautifully of the need to preserve the environment through the guise of a simple family fishing trip. "El Sueno de Sonia" (Diego Sarmiento, 2015, Peru) dealt with the importance of traditional cooking, and the efforts of one woman who seeks to revive it. The filmmaker's brother was able to attend the festival and gave us some extra insight into Sonia's efforts. Cuisine is often ignored but really essential to our functioning, so it was nice to see it mentioned here. I particularly liked "Katary - Stand Up" (Awki Esteban Lema, 2014, Venezuela), in which the filmmaker explored his heritage by interviewing his sweet, lovely grandparents, who just seemed like the most ridiculously nice couple on earth. And the film won extra points by paying special attention to that most underrated family member, the dog.  Dude's got his priorities straight for sure. "Kuychi Pucha" (Segundo Fuerez, 2014, Ecuador) told a sad story in a beautiful, tranquil, dreamlike style, framed in masterfully choreographed sequences. "Nuestro Hogar" (Detsy "Mara" Barrigon, Ivan Jaripio, 2014, Panama) was the most overtly political of the program, documenting protests and other efforts to preserve Embera land rights in Panama. In the Snow Theatre that night, we were treated to "Catalina Y El Sol" (Anna Paula Honig, 2015, Argentina), about a child storyteller in the salt flats, which had some of the most spectacular cinematography I've ever seen.

The American films were an eclectic and satisfying bunch, though I wish there had been more from other regions of the USA, and maybe some from Mexico, which has always had a fabulous cinematic scene. I also wish I had thought ahead and attended more of the Navajo films, which were mostly the works of Blackhorse Lowe, Nanobah Becker and Sydney Freeland.You may notice I left one major North American country out, but that is because it gets its own category...

Canada

Before you ask, no, I did not give Canada its own space because of some sort of homesick patriotism (I'm positively gleeful to be travelling again), but because it took up half the festival. Maybe it's because the various film funding organizations were especially active lately (which I doubt under the Harper government), or my convoluted theory that the Nordics are European Canada and Canada is the North American Nordics, and we should be reunited as long-lost siblings, mostly so I can hang out in the EU for as long as I want (don't ask - but from what I saw in Helsinki in 2014, and here, I do suspect that Canada and Finland have a pleasant relationship, at least between their people). Following Occam's Razor, though, my guess is that ImagineNative, the largest Indigenous film festival on Earth (and Toronto-based!), is a huge presence in the Indigenous film world and commissions/encourages a lot of the films and talent, which is thus more inclined to be Canadian. Especially considering the Sami spotlight at ImagineNative last fall, it's not really surprising that a lot of Canadian films would make the reverse trip.

That said, there were THREE separate programs dedicated to Canada, as well as appearances in other spotlights, and I'm pretty sure it was the most represented region at the festival aside from Sapmi (Lapland) - yes, even more than the Navajo filmmakers who were being featured. I have to admit it was cheering, if a little disorienting - I half expected to walk out of the theatre onto Yonge Street, not an Arctic highway!

In fact, two of the four films at the opening in the snow theatre were from Canada. The first was a beautiful affirmation of life and nature, "Nitahkotan" (2015), from the artist Moe Clark, who performed live every night in the snow theatre - and is an engaging performer and delightful person in general. Another one was "Ka Mitshelitakuess Auass" (Isabelle Kanape, 2015), a funny and instructive Inuit tale about growing up and dealing with emotions. At the Americas programme the next day, I saw "Balmoral Hotel" (Wayne Wapeemukwa, 2015), a story of a sex worker from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside told through some truly magnificent dance. "Mia" (Amanda Strong/Bracken Hanuse, 2015) seamlessly blended nature and urban life through the stop-motion animated tale of a street artist. I definitely want to look further into Canada's animated scene (outside of the NFB, which we all know like the back of our hands), as the works I saw here were incredibly strong. That particular program closed out with "Clouds of Autumn" (Trevor Mack, 2015), a beautiful movie from the Chilcotin region about two siblings separated when the elder goes to residential school. It was simply and subtly told, and utterly devastating. The filmmaker, and the four actors playing the family, all deserve major praise. Again, a film about childhood done well can be a powerful thing.

I found it interesting to watch the Canadian films with a mostly non-Canadian audience. Most of the films about historical or political issues had adequate context to allow others to understand, but was it the same thing? When they saw a rough-looking city street, did their minds immediately jump to "Downtown Eastside"? When a mother cried for her child, did they know instantly that it was about residential schools? (Maybe so - Sami boarding schools are a painful history in their own right.) Hard to say, and I'm not sure it matters - what was immediately in front of them was pretty strong on its own, and I definitely liked the films where I didn't know the history. But it does make me wonder what is missed when you just don't know - not to mention that as a non-Native person, there were undoubtedly layers I was missing in the Canadian segments.

And you know, even after this Russian novel of a post, we're just beginning with the Canadian films. That's how much they dominated the festival. The "Canada" segments were not just Canadian - it also had to do with the Embargo movement, which apparently originates in Canada but accepts films from all over the world - but they were predominantly so. "Savage", by the fantastic Lisa Jackson (2009), told the story of a residential school as a musical short, with some electric dance sequences and an incredible lament from the main character's mother. I hope that actress is getting constant work, because she is incredible. "?E?Anx" (Helen Haig-Brown, 2009) was a sort of Western supernatural story, also taking place in BC's Chilcotin region. An audience favourite was "Tsi Tkahehtayen"  (Zoe Leigh-Hopkins, 2009), a funny story about a farmer who can grow wishes in his garden, but is a tad hard of hearing, which means that people get the opposite of what they wanted.

That night's Snow Theatre session was almost entirely Canadian, including an animated Inuit film about the importance of fishing ("Tuktumit", Ippiksaut Friesen, 2014), a powerful and painful remembrance of two of Canada's 1000 missing or murdered Indigenous women ("The Routes", James McDougall, 2014), and a music video featuring a digital rock setting of Anishinaabe music ("Call and Response", Craig Commanda, 2014).

The next day, I was back for more Canada, starting off with the wonderful "Roberta" (Caroline Monnet, 2014), about a dissatisfied grandmother who turns to amphetamine. It sounds depressing, but it was sassy and full of life (with a sad undercurrent), mostly due to its charismatic lead performance - from another actress whom I hope is getting tons of work. Next came the heartbreaking "Aviliaq" (Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, 2014), another Inuit film about two lesbians in the 1950s who try to find a way to live their lives together, facing opposition from the territorial government. The acting was superb,  and the cinematography perfect, and it was an excellent - but sad - love story. It makes me think of Carol, which has similar themes and is getting tons of press. It was good, but you know what? I think this one may have been better. "Skyworld" (Zoe Leigh Hopkins, 2014) was a powerful meditation on widowhood and the importance of family. I also enjoyed "Intemperance" (Lisa Jackson, 2014), which was adapted from a short story by Canada's first literary celebrity, George Copway, and was an early account of the effects of alcohol on the Ojibway people. The standout of the show, though, was Bihttos, a film by Sami/Blackfoot filmmaker Elle-Maija Tailfeathers - but more on that later. I've placed it in the Sami category, as it is predominantly about her Sami dad.

Our last "Canada" session had only two films - "Mr Sanderson" (Ray Sanderson/Terrie McIntosh, 2015), a documentary about a blind single dad in rural Manitoba, who is a person of never ending optimism. Then there was Fire Song (Adam Garnet Jones, 2015), and my goodness, what can I say about Fire Song? It's an extraordinarily well-done film about a young gay man in an Ontario reservation who is trying to move to Toronto. It was excellent from beginning to end, really well-written and dealing with incredibly complex issues. If there's any justice, it will get some real play in Canada (but let's be real, English-language films never get play in Canada). Go see it if you have the chance, I beg you.

And that is it from Canada (all eleven billion movies). A pretty strong lineup from some fantastically talented people. I just wish they were given the time they deserve back home. So guys, this is my plea - please support Canadian film as much as you can, especially within communities that may not have great industry support. There is so much great work being done, and with the proliferation of online video services, all you need to do is look!

Asia

Asia is such an enormous continent with so many different cultures that it's hard to get an accurate representation - and there were some prominent areas missed, but the films they offered were pretty interesting. "The Bag" (Thet Su Hlaing, Myanmar, 2012) was entirely about the painstaking creation of a handmade Lahu bag, and the efforts of its maker, a quietly mesmerizing short. Sicigorousawa Un Cironnop (Tune Sugihara, Japan, 2014) was an Ainu production about deforestation, concerning a fox mother who desperately hunts for food in the scary and unfamiliar city. Put Japan and animation together and you're pretty much always going to get good work, but this was exceptional work, with striking colours and great flow to the animation, along with a compelling story and character designs. Maw Theng Gaari (Aung Rakhine, 2015, Bangladesh), the first Indigenous-language feature film ever made in Bangladesh, which talks about the impact one bicycle can have in a family and a village. Funny, hopeful and eventually bittersweet, the film was incredibly well-done, and I hope this emerging national cinema really takes off.

One interesting feature this year was the presence of several films from Myanmar, probably due to relative easing of some political and diplomatic restrictions, as well as a series of film workshops that were held in the country a couple of years ago. I attended a Myanmar spotlight on the last day of the festival, and saw a series of excellent films coming from those workshops. Many of them were similar in style, as the same crew and mentors worked across several of the films. "Lady of the Lake" (Zaw Naing Oo, 2014) concerned the traditions of village fishermen, which seemed to exist regardless of who was in charge of the government. "Solomon" (Anna Biak Tha Mawi, 2014) was about a soldier fighting for political reform, and an excellent portrait of both his cause and his family. "When the Boat Comes In" (Khin Maung Kyaw, 2014) explores the effect of fishing restrictions on a coastal community, and the strength of the villagers who decide to fight back. My favourite of the segment, "Last Kiss" (Seng Mai Kinraw, 2013) talks about the home front in the long conflict in Myanmar, from the point of view of civilian women, focusing especially on an women-driven organization for peace. Myanmar is a striking, beautiful place that has been off-limits to many outsiders for a long time, and I'm pleased to see that it's coming back on the world stage. It's a national cinema to watch out for, anyway - considering recent changes, I anticipate great things.

Here's me at the Burma screening in the Sami parliament (gigantic pink sweater):



Europe

This one was pretty much Sami film, plus one from Ukraine - more on that later. Let's talk about some of the hometown players.

I missed some of the Sami segments, as well as most of the side events, as I was busy trying to get a wide range of films in - one of the frustrating things about a film festival is that you can't see everything, so I at least wanted to try a bit of everything. I also made some boneheaded mistakes, like not hearing about a reindeer herding series of films hosted by Anni-Kristina Juuso (of Kukushka and Kautokeino Rebellion fame, an actress I admire - d'oh!) until it was almost done. That said, I did see about half the Sami films featured, and many of the prominent ones, including some real highlights of the festival. 

We opened in the Snow Theatre with two Canadian films mentioned above, and two Sami films - a music video for children which was later exhibited in a segment I'll describe further down, and Sahtan Ja Mahtan (Tarmo Lehtosalo/Ailu Valle/Raquel Rawn, 2012, Sapmi/Finland), a rap music video about inner power which got a lot of people up and dancing - especially the kids, which was pretty cute. It was cold as anything but the experience (and the films) were very much worth it.

I didn't see any Sami for another day (including missing out on some Liselotte Wajstedt, sadly - though she has enough online presence that I can see most of her stuff anyway). There was a Sofia Jannok music video (We Are Still Here, Matti Aikio/Sofia Jannok, 2015, Sweden), at the Snow Theatre the next night, and more of her work would appear throughout the festival. Finally, I got to see a couple of segments dealing exclusively with Sami film. "Turisteme" (Mai-Lis Eira, 2014, Sapmi/Norway) was about a couple who ran a souvenir stand, and the effects of tourism on the Sapmi region - so crucial economically, but sometimes deleterious. "Stoerre Vaerie" (Amanda Kernell, 2015, Sapmi/Sweden), about an old woman who has turned her back on her Sami identity in favour of a mainstream Swedish life, and is forced to return home and face her past, is one of the most famous Sami films ever made, and played ImagineNative last fall. It was fantastic, playing on some difficult themes and exhibiting some truly wonderful performances. "Jhaki Il Leat Jagi Viellja" (Mai-Lis Eira, 2015, Sapmi/Norway) examines a father-son relationship in times of great changes for reindeer herding - and by extension, Sami life.

On my last day, I attended a segment dedicated to Sami music. One was about an Inari Sami rapper ("Amoc-Vuosmos", Ima Aikio, 2015, Sapmi/Finland), who is trying to bring attention to a language only spoken in the Inari region, by about 300 people in total. He is not only a rapper, but a teacher, and does workshops teaching Sami kids how to rap in their own language, which the kids seem to love. He performed live after the film and was fantastic! After that came a series of twelve childrens' music videos, performed by two local artists and all directed by Ima Aikio. I will admit it got a bit repetitive after a while, but afterwards they did a presentation to honour Aikio and had the artists perform live, which was very moving and a lot of fun.
 
Our last evening in the snow theatre was exclusively composed of Sami film, starting with another Sofia Jannok music video ("Snolejonnina", Sofia Jannok, 2015, Sapmi/Sweden). We then saw a beautiful film about the Northern Lights, which are said in Sami lore to take naughty children away, and two kids who discover this the hard way one snowy night ("Guovssahas Oaidna Du", Sara Margrethe Oskal, 2015, Sapmi/Norway). "Bivdoaigi" (Suohpanterror, 2015, Sapmi/Finland/Norway), was a recording of a performance from a Sami activist group advocating for an end to cultural appropriation, especially of Sami clothes and sacred objects. Then we finished off with Elle-Maija Tailfeathers' "Bihttos", more about that below.

The two films I want to discuss in detail were both family documentaries, and massive hits at the festival. The first, "Bihttos" (2014, Canada) is the work of Elle-Maija Tailfeathers, an artist based in Vancouver who is of both Sami and Blackfoot heritage. I had previously studied her work for an essay, and was absolutely thrilled to see her work and to meet her. The film was extraordinary. It's based on the style of Lisa Jackson, and tells the story of her parents' extraordinary meeting (or rather, several meetings) across continents, her childhood in several different countries, and her father's depression, along with the breakdown of her parents' marriage. On a visit to Sapmi as an adult, Elle-Maija  explores both her heritage and her father's personal struggles, which eventually circles around to his trauma from the Sami boarding school policy enforced in the 20th century - somewhat similar to the residential schools her mother's family experienced in Canada, but not nearly as talked about. It's totally personal and utterly genuine, and Elle-Maija's distinctive voice is a presence throughout. I really cannot get over how emotional, yet stylistically polished this film was. It was very well-received - and I hope to see a lot more from its filmmaker.

The second film, "Sparruoabban" (Suvi West, 2016, Sapmi/Finland) was the unquestioned hit of the festival, advertised all over, played to a full crowd, and called back for a repeat performance. It is listed as a pre-premiere, so I expect that it will turn up in other places later this year - maybe watch for it at ImagineNative. Perhaps it is so interesting because of its subject matter. Sami society tends to lean towards religious and conservative, and LGBT rights are still taboo (though things were likely different pre-Christianity - no one knows for sure). The filmmaker, Suvi, follows her sister Kaisa's journey as a lesbian woman who has left Sapmi. The two travel up north to suss out the attitudes in their hometown, and to Canada to meet Native friends who teach them about the concept of two-spirit. Along the way, they also explore attitudes in the Finnish church, and learn about Finnish LGBT history from people in Helsinki's lesbian community. Kaisa marries and starts a family, and her Sami culture remains important to her, but she is always conflicted about her home. Perhaps the strongest part of the film is the bond between the two sisters, which goes through ups and downs and minor grievances, but always remains strong. Their relationship is the cornerstone of the movie, really. Like Elle-Maija Tailfeathers, Suvi West's voice is utterly authentic.

The reaction was unbelievable - the crowd applauded fiercely and many people in the audience spoke of how it had affected them personally, often because they were gay or had gay loved ones. I didn't hear anything negative. Suvi was there and I hope she knew how much people liked the movie. It was truly an extraordinary moment to witness. I think it will continue to be appreciated as it plays in other places. It's just that kind of film.

(On a personal note, I had to laugh that there was both a Toronto sequence on the very streets that I walk down every day, and a scene at Helsinki Pride that I'm pretty sure was "my" year. Small world. Actually, if there's one lesson I'll take from this festival, it's this. We live in a much smaller world than we imagine.)

Now, the Ukrainian film. 

In 1944, as the German army was just removed from Crimea, the Soviet army was ordered to deport over two hundred thousand Crimean Tatars to Central Asia and Germany, as they were declared to be traitors and fascist sympathizers. There was little evidence to support this - a great number of Tatars were loyal to Stalin and the USSR, and thousands fought in the Red Army. Forty percent of the deported citizens died during this process, and yet it is almost totally forgotten by history.

"Haytarma" (Ahtem Seytablaev, 2014, Ukraine), named after a traditional dance, covers the story of a heroic, decorated Tatar pilot in the Soviet army who gets a few days' leave and takes his buddies (Russian and French) with him to his hometown. They are welcomed warmly, but on the night of a welcome-home celebration, the people are forced out of their homes and put on trains. It is up to the pilot and his friends to save his family. The film is gorgeous, full of dreamy landscapes and great character moments, and there are extraordinarily hard-hitting moments of cruel brutality and, sometimes, courage from unexpected places. It is the first film ever made in the Crimean Tatar language. It is about a part of history that was too easily ignored and should be remembered to this day, especially as the situation in that part of the world remains precarious.

To sum up

The films were tremendously diverse, both in origin and in content. LGBT issues and their context in various Indigenous traditions were huge, appearing in at least four films that I can remember, all from different places. A lot of the movies involved kids and families, often humourously, sometimes heartbreakingly. I also found a new appreciation for shorts, which was the bulk of the festival lineup. It is tremendously difficult to say all you need to in a concise manner, and these films did so wonderfully.

One thing I felt kind of weird about - all the movies were either in English or subtitled in English. While I appreciate being able to understand, and know logically that it's the best language to use with films and guests coming from all over the world, it was still odd - and sad, in a way. Sure, English being universal can be convenient, but at the same time, something is definitely lost.

Some regions that could have been represented better - the Middle East, Africa, Central Asia, India, the Pacific outside of Aus/NZ, Russia. Of course, gaining a film is a difficult process and it's hard to tell whether films were chosen or not chosen based on availability or political problems or simply filmmaker interest. I also would have liked to see a wider range from the USA. However, there was a pretty diverse lineup already and I don't know how they choose the films, so I'm not going to judge. Hopefully some of these regions will appear later on.

Along with the films, there were speeches, presentations, and live musical performances, mostly from Sami people but occasionally from other artists (mostly from North America). I know I said I got tired of the musical videos, but some of the same performers did appear live and they were AWESOME. Pop music, rap, kids' music, traditional song, it was all kinds.



And of course, there were standard filmmaker Q&A's for several of the films, which were interesting and enlightening. Of particular note were the Q&A's with Suvi West, Blackhorse Lowe, Elle-Maija Tailfeathers, and the journalist connected with the Crimean film, who came in the filmmakers' stead, as they are unable to leave Crimea. Here's Suvi right before they presented her film.


Depending on my schedule next January, I likely won't be able to attend Skabmagovat in 2017, but I would definitely love to do so in the future. As it stands, I know I will attend ImagineNative as much as I can, especially as many of the same films, filmmakers and organizations are likely to be represented. Plus it's basically in my backyard, so I really have no excuse!

Was it worth it? The money, the effort, the time out from classes? Absolutely. I saw so many new films, learned from dozens of different perspectives and discovered endless things about the world, along with a long list of filmmakers and organizations to keep an eye on. In addition, I was able to check out a whole new part of the world, and experience the beauty of the Arctic. I would encourage anyone reading this to check out Indigenous films, from your own country and abroad, whenever you have the chance - there is a wealth of talent and of information that is not often made high-profile, and we all miss out because of it. It was an unforgettable experience - I will always be glad that I took this opportunity. 

As I finish this, I am sitting on the plane waiting to take off for Helsinki (it took several parts to get every film in). After an overnight, I am off to Stockholm for a day (because obviously), and then I'm back home via Amsterdam. It's hectic, but I'm terribly excited. Probably because it will be above zero Celsius and I won't have to wear the same damn outfit every day. So tomorrow, the adventure continues...



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