Aboriginal short films come to Calgary

By Sarah Dorchak

Calgarians are being treated to the best and brightest aboriginal short films this week as part of a collaborative project to bring indigenous arts out west. On October 19 at the Old Y Centre, the Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers will present the top shorts from the 2011 imagineNATIVE Festival. CSIF is working with 
imagineNATIVE and the Stolen Sisters Digital Initiative to make this event possible.

“[CSIF’s] mandate is to increase exposure for all filmmakers,” says CSIF programming director 
Nicola Waugh. “There’s a huge gap between the people and the artists, and a gap between cultures. Calgary is very urban and doesn’t seem to take into consideration aboriginal content.”

CSIF chose to feature Canadian shorts from Toronto’s imagineNATIVE festival, an annual showcase of films made by indigenous people from around the world, due to the festival’s high profile in aboriginal programming. 

“They are the biggest and the best in North America,” says Waugh. “ImagineNATIVE is trying to expand nationally to create a better voice for aboriginal programming.” 

The imagineNATIVE festival promotes works by indigenous peoples from around the globe. CSIF is only including works done by 
Canadian Aboriginal communities, like the Inuit, Anishnaabe and Cree.

The night will feature eight shorts chosen by the imagineNATIVE aboriginal shorts program from the 2011 festival and hopes to garner interest for the 2012 imagineNATIVE festival happening from October 17–21 in Toronto. The Calgary event also plans to feature shorts made by elementary students through the Stoney Education Authority, which runs three schools on the Stoney reserve in southwestern Alberta.

The Quickdraw Animation Society ran a program for students at these three schools, helping to develop an early love for animated shorts for elementary students.

Through the Stolen Sisters Digital Initiative, four one-minute shorts are being run through public display screens across Canada, including at the Calgary International Airport and Southcentre Mall. SSDI is an initiative through imagineNATIVE that exhibits works from Canadian Aboriginal filmmakers.

“All these groups are coming together to create awareness for aboriginal programming,” says Waugh. “This is one event, but it’s motivated by so many other things happening in the city and across the country.”

“It’s difficult in a city like 
Calgary to show aboriginal content,” Waugh says, citing Calgary’s dispersed population and smaller programming organizations. CSIF has been working with the Native Centre at the University of Calgary to reach out to the reserves, to help get First Nations people to see the films. 

“The people who are really needing to see it are not living in the city. There’s all these organizations coming together to create awareness for aboriginal programming,” says Waugh.

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