Filmmakers Mathilde Benignus from France and Evan K. Launière from Masteuiatsh, an Innu community in northern Québec, were in Thompson July 17 as part of Wapikoni’s Cinema on Wheels Caravan tour, which started in Manitoba July 8 and will finish at The Forks in Winnipeg July 30 before moving east to Ontario and Québec.
The travelling exhibition presented about 15 short movies by Indigenous filmmakers in Canada at the University College of the North (UCN) Thompson campus lecture hall before hitting the road for Nelson House the next two days, Cross Lake July 20, Norway House July 23, Grand Rapids July 24 and Pinaymootang First Nation July 29. It had already stopped in Pine Creek, Swan River, The Pas, Moose Lake and Cormorant before arriving in Thompson
Wapikoni was founded by a Québec filmmaker 15 years ago with the intention of going to First Nations communities and doing documentaries with them instead of about them. In addition to the Cinema on Wheels tour, which exposes audiences to diverse Indigenous short films, the organization also travels to Indigenous communities to help them tell their own stories through film and music.
“I believe you should also let the people talk for themselves,” said Benignus. “It’s really refreshing and sometimes also very political and poetic at the same time. People still have a sense of art and beauty. I think the films reflect that very well.”
Launière’s involvement with Wapikoni began when he made a short film with their help in his home community.
“I wrote a short little movie,” he says, explaining that it was call Les Zombies du WIFI and depicted a music concert where the crowd were all transfixed by the screens of their phones until somebody switched the WiFi off. The film will be shown at the Montreal First Peoples Film Festival.
“I’m very happy to get this chance [to travel around and show audiences Wapikoni’s films],” said Launière, who says visiting different communities has shown him that people are more similar than different.
“We’re all from the same place and we just started splitting and walking,” he says.
The tour wasn’t without miscalculations, as when they reached Northern Manitoba and realized outdoor movie screenings at 8 p.m. like Wapikoni does in Montreal, wouldn’t work very well when it doesn’t get dark until 11 p.m. But Benignus says the experience is enjoyable.
“It’s always different [in every community],” she says, adding that she hopes seeing films made by other Indigenous people inspires those in Northern Manitoba to do the same.
“It’s important to support independent movie makes,” and to realize all movies are not Hollywood blockbusters, she says.