Jules Koostachin, Festival Organizer, filmmakers Laura Milliken, Darlene Naponse, Alanis Obomsawin and Michelle Latimer.

Jules Koostachin, Festival Organizer, filmmakers Laura Milliken, Darlene Naponse, Alanis Obomsawin and Michelle Latimer.

By Heather Campbell

SUDBURY –The success of indigenous women filmmakers across Canada is worth celebrating and the University of Sudbury’s department of Indigenous Studies did just that on January 24.

The 2nd Annual Film Festival, Celebrating Indigenous Women in Film and Television, showcased a short film program including a panel discussion with award winning indigenous women filmmakers Laura Milliken, Michelle Latimer, and Darlene Naponse. The day also included the honoured filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin who presented her latest documentary film Trick or Treaty?

Jules Koostachin, festival organizer, wanted the day to be about celebration because ‘it is such a challenging industry for indigenous women.’

“Many people have a fantasy of indigenous women. We are not just this caricature but we are talented, professional and great story tellers,” said Koostachin

Milliken, a member of the Kettle and Stony Point First Nation, told the audience that the most challenging part of making films early in her career was the legal or insurance aspects, simply because they were so unfamiliar. Her solution was to enlist mentors. “Women in the industry would take us under their wing,” she said.

Today, Big Soul Productions, a company she started with business partner Jennifer Podemski, is now a flourishing award winning production company. Their most notable is the Gemini nominated television drama series Moccasin Flats.

Actress and director, Michelle Latimer, shared her story of how she had been drawn to go behind the camera after being disillusioned by her acting career. She told how she ventured to Tanzania to volunteer in an HIV clinic. “I had a video camera on my desk that I was going to use on a safari trip, a woman who was being treated there, and not doing very well, told me that the medicines will not do as much as the camera will,” she said. In tears as she told the story, “That African woman understood the power of film. I was hooked. I didn’t want to do anything else after that.”

Latimer, named among Playback’s 10 to Watch in 2013, is currently starring in the critically acclaimed television series Blackstone.

Darlene Naponse, a filmmaker from Atikameksheng Anishnawbek, shared how she had always wanted to make films. “It is important to tell stories and I was tired of seeing inaccurate stories of our people,” she said.

Naponse, who co-owns Pine Needle Productions with her husband Julian Cote, says her biggest challenge is to be able to continue to make films while living in her home community and missing industry opportunities in larger centres. Naponse, despite being at a distance from the action, has succeeded in pursuing her filmmaking and writing career. Her latest feature film, “Every Emotion Costs”, has been screened worldwide and won an American Indian Movie Award in 2011.

Festival organizers hope that these films contribute to the ongoing indigenous resurgence movement taking place in Canada and provide a more accurate portrayal of indigenous history and progress.