The complexities of translation and the intricacies of cultural distinctions are highlighted by this sign, for many years posted on the way to the mine with Naskapi, Innu, English and French languages.
Join us for the screening of Celia Haig-Brown's film, Listen to the Land at York University on September 27 at 7pm.
Ross 102 (Nat Taylor Cinema), York University
Q&A and reception to follow. Chief Noah Swappie, community members and filmmaker, Celia Haig-Brown, in attendance.
This is a free, child-friendly event!
It is with great excitement to announce that Listen to the Land, directed by Celia Haig Brown and co-written with Jordan O'Connor has been accepted into the Toronto Lift-Off Film Festival Online #TorontoLiftOffOnline and will be screening for one week starting Sunday, July 15th at midnight.
This means you will be able to view my film, and several others, for a small fee during the week long run and vote for Listen to the Land! It would mean the world to us, as the top ten shortlisted films will get screened at the festival's global platform and get detailed feedback from the judges.
Stay tuned as I'll be sharing the link when it goes live starting SUNDAY!
UPDATE: Voting is now live for the Toronto Lift-Off Film Festival Online! For one week only, watch and vote for Listen to the Land at: Vimeo.com/ondemand/torontoliftoff2018
My first impression of Kawawachikamach came when I went to the community to work with the teachers in Jimmy Sandy Memorial School. First of all, this provincially run school is in a beautiful building with fully qualified teachers, many of whom are Naskapi. But the best part of the school is that the Naskapi language fills the air. In the office, in the hallways, in the classrooms: the students, many of the teachers, all the office staff speak Naskapi. The community is something like 96% fluent in the language. Such riches. That being said, I don't speak it -- although I now have a very few words. What I saw in the school flowed out across the community -- the language is rich and alive and being appreciated.
Question 2: This one came from a colleague at my university, another filmmaker. He said that he wondered about the name Listen to the Land when there are not many times for hearing what the Land of Kawawa sounds like. What a beautiful question. It reminded me that once when I was leaving Jimmy Sandy Memorial School, I heard a white throated sparrow singing. That incredibly beautiful song. I recorded it on my phone and listened to it often. But when we were actually filming, it was another season and I didn’t hear that. Of course we hear the wind in the opening shot. Now I want to go through and see/hear what other moments give us the sound of the Land in that place. And there is also the other way to think about Listen to the Land which is that we need to find ways to hear how the Land is speaking to us about how to move into being in good relation.
While we are still waiting for the best timing for the official launch of the film, I have begun to show it at a few academic conferences and to a few friends and colleagues to get some initial responses. First was Shawane Dagosiwin in Winnipeg. About 30 people attended, including I am honoured to say, two Elders, as well as community people and academics. The next showing was at Congress in Regina. This was in the Celebration of Creative Scholarly Works as part of the Canadian Association of Curriculum Studies. Lots of people there and lots of activity in the room. (I didn’t actually get to show it at FNU shown above but it is so beautiful, I had to include the photo.)
Question 1: This came from Elder Doris Young from the University of the North. She asked (and I am paraphrasing here) if the film was suggesting that we are all the same. It was a great moment for me because it pushed me to articulate what I had been wanting to say. We are all very different: you, me, and, yes, the various members of the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach are all different from each other. But we all do live here together on this tiny globe where everything and everyone lives in relationship with one another. And we must find a way to live in good relation with the Land – that means the earth, the air, the waters and all the creatures, beings and formations that make up this world. We have not been doing a very good job.
Once the Elders were served and the others gathered had their food, we started the proceedings with a few, very few, words. Community researcher Cheyenne Vachon talked about the complexities of the film shoots and her excitement at getting to see the final product. Her work with us was invaluable. She not only contributed her wisdom and community knowledge, but her daughter Amanda also helped us with translation of some of the Naskapi conversations so we could subtitle in English for non-speakers.
Even before going to the community, as the film was getting toward its final form, I started to show it to people around me to get responses. I have to say, I watched the watchers with my heart pounding. What if I hadn’t done justice to the work the Naskapi had done with me? What if Jordan (the editor) and I had not managed to create meaning for the viewers? These two heads belong to two of my granddaughters. They watched with great interest and then asked lots of questions about the language. Whew!! Approval and engagement from these little critics.
Then it was time for the feast. Caribou, fish and all the accoutrements. A delicious meal. Thanks to Stella Pien for all the arrangements she made. A few short talks: community-based Research Assistant Cheyenne Vachon; the Principal of Jimmy Sandy Memorial School, Joseph Whelan; then Celia and it was time to roll. About 70 people from the community gathered to watch – from elders to babies and everyone in between. While it played there was hardly a sound. Everybody was focused intently on the screen. For those who have spent time at feasts, that’s pretty unusual. My reward – at the end: everyone clapped. (DSC 3069) I figured at that moment, I must have done something right. Whatever comes next, the people who matter have given a kind of stamp of approval. Best comment of the night came later as we were putting the tables away. I asked a couple of the teenagers who were helping what they thought. One said, “It was okay.” The other said, with lots of enthusiasm, “It was MORE than okay.”
First stop was The Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach Offices. Chief and Council were meeting for several days that week and we had timed the visit to coincide to be sure that most people were in town. Director-General Curtis Tootoosis welcomed us and in we went to meet with Chief Noah Swappie, Councillors Sandy Shecanapish, Theresa Chemaganish, George Guanish and Secretary to the Council Stella Pien. Everyone watched intently while we waited with hope and trepidation. What would they think? There was some laughter. Mostly a strong focus, checking it out. When it ended, the first comments were, “But there is so much more about us.” “Not much on fishing.” My response was, “I’ve done this one. Now it’s your turn!” But then who knows what might happen…..That being said, all agreed there was a need for a bit more work on some of the translation and George agreed to work with us in final editing.
So the film screening for the community began with a bit of a convoluted trip to Kawawa. Because Research Assistant Alesha Moffat and I were booking flights at the last minute the only way in was to fly first to Sept-Îles and then north to Schefferville on Air Inuit. Despite the fact it was January, the weather was gorgeous and our young flight crew took us in without a hitch. This plane, a six-seater (or is it 8?), gives you an aisle seat and a window seat all at the same time. Once we landed, it was rent-a-car, a quick stop at the McGill Subarctic Research Centre where we stay with Oksana Choulik, curriculum developer by day and super hostess in the evenings. From there, it was down the road to Kawawachikamach.
You might be wondering, how do I access and view this film?
The film, Listen to the Land is in its final form! We are working on the film being available to community members of Kawawachikamach at their request. If you have any questions comment below or send us an email. We love to hear from you. We will continue to post up to date information about access and distribution of the film here on the Listen to the Land Blog.
December 3, 2017
On the road. Well, not this one, not on the road to Kawawa, but we are on the road to getting to the completion of the film. Curtis got a copy for the Steering Committee and the comments are pretty good so far. I am still checking in with some people. We need to work on the translations and getting some Naskapi syllabics onto the screen for sure. Stay tuned. It will be time for the feasting before too long!
November 5, 2017
Rough cut is on its way to viewing in Kawawa. Director-General of the NNK Curtis Tootoosis (collaborator on the grant and former principal of the school) is working to download the VIMEO version from the internet. Jessica Mitchell, Health Coordinator at NNK, has offered to help organize a Steering Committee meeting. Getting their feedback will allow Jordan and me to move into a final version – lock up, I think it’s called. Or locked anyway. I now know that Cheyenne is teaching at Jimmy Sandy, the local provincially funded school so she may be too busy to set the meeting. But I do hope she will be able to attend the meeting.
This moment is in some ways scary and, at the same time, essential to respectful community-based research.
October 23, 2017
I have decided to do updates each week or even more often as the film is moving into the final stages of editing. The narration is in place. There is still room for more B-roll. That refers to all the images that add dimensions to the film and move it beyond the interviews and the narration. These are exciting and scary times as now is the time when worries about how the film will be seen by various people come to mind. Yes, that means, I am worrying. Will the community like it? Find it acceptable? Does the film actually have something to say to people? Is it beautiful? Does it do justice to the many hours of time invested by so many people within the community?
Of course, once it gets to near final form and while there is still a chance for changes, I will return to the Steering Committee to get their advice.
October 24, 2017
How super exciting: Shane Belcourt, Director of Photography for Listening to the Land, and Lisa Jackson (currently a student at York University) have been awarded the Alanis Obamsawin Award for Best Documentary Work Long Format at the Imaginative Film Festival this week. They co-directed Indictment: The Crimes of Shelly Cartier. It’s playing on CBC on October 29 at 9 pm. Check out the trailer. http://www.cbc.ca/cbcdocspov/episodes/indictment-the-crimes-of-shelly-chartier
As for my work, I am now moving into figuring out and listing the credits. That means checking out each person who appears in the film as well as all those who contributed. I think immediately of Cheyenne Vachon and Jessica Nattawappio who worked as research assistants. And that is only the beginning of a very long list.