This Indigenous film festival on Manitoulin Island will honour ‘residential school warriors’ | CBC News

The Weengushk International Film Festival, an Indigenous festival in northern Ontario, is set to return for its eighth year on Manitoulin Island.

The festival will be held from July 11 to 14 at the Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre in Little Current.

This year, the festival will be dedicated to honouring residential school survivors. It will begin with a symbolic procession called Blanket of Stars: A Tribute to Resilience on July 11. Residential school warriors wrapped in star blankets will gather to walk across the iconic swing bridge in Little Current. They’ll be met by dancers, drummers and the community at the end. 

“There are seven to eight youths that each elder will pass the torch of knowledge, pass the torch of language to so that these youth will carry the story,” explains Phyllis Ellis, the executive director of Weengushk International Film Festival.

A man stares at an elderly woman smiling
The Weengushk International Film Festival will feature cultural exchanges and inspiring workshops around the rich tapestry of Indigenous culture through storytelling, music and performances. (Weengushk International Film Festival)

According to the festival, the procession represents the survivor’s long journey and serves as a welcoming home. The bridge will metaphorically represent the bridging of past and present, acknowledging the long road these survivors have travelled.

The festival will include two short programs and six feature films. These films include Sugarcane and Lakota Nation vs. United States. There will also be a music performance from The Poets: A Tragically Hip Tribute and a red carpet gala.

Five men standing in the snow
The Poets- a Tragically Hip Tribute are from Moosonee and Moose Factory in northeastern Ontario. (Weengushk International Film Festival)

“Every story is obviously unique to that person’s personal experience, but it also has let us understand that we connected to something bigger in that experience, it really affected us on a cellular level, but also connected us through this lived experience,” said Marie Clements, director of Bones of Crows, explaining the importance behind telling the stories of residential school survivors. 

“That experience still happened and it’s still affecting our families and it’s still affecting our communities and it’s still affecting social and political ideas of the world. So I think it’s important to understand and witness them and their stories.”

playwright marie clements portrait
(Marie Clements)

Ellis said the festival will feature free cultural workshops for the community, and those who attend the festival.

“It’s not just about films, it’s also a cultural event. So we have language speakers and knowledge keepers, elders and there are workshops.”

 

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