An audience from around the world may soon learn the story of how the raven brought light to the world.
Mohawk artist and Whitehorse-based filmmaker Shaunoh Anderson will be screening his short Yéil (Raven) virtually at the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival on Oct. 23.
The festival is billed as the largest international Indigenous film festival.
Yéil (Raven) will be part of the festival’s shorts program entitled “Above — Return of the Light”.
The annual festival is based in Toronto and serves as “an international hub for the presentation and celebration of Indigenous media art.”
As described on the festival website: “Founded in 1998, in part as a response to lack of self-representation (with the vast majority of films about Indigenous peoples being made by non-Indigenous filmmakers), imagineNATIVE plays a crucial role in providing platforms for Indigenous artists to reclaim their voices and express their perspectives.”
This year’s festival, which began Oct. 19, features six days of screenings along with workshops, networking opportunities and more both in-person and virtually.
In an Oct. 19 interview, Anderson said he’s excited to have Yéil (Raven) screened at an Indigenous film festival.
“I’m really proud,” he said, noting that he and others involved in its production wanted to see it shown at a festival with imagineNATIVE at the top of the list because of its focus on Indigenous films.
“We’re excited,” he said.
Work on the film got underway in 2020 initially as a piece for Travel Yukon that was to focus on more daylight returning to the territory.
Anderson’s wife reminded him of the story he would come to produce in film.
As Anderson explained, as an Indigenous filmmaker wherever possible, he leans into Indigenous story-telling and this created an opportunity to share the story.
Having wanted to work with the Dakhká Khwáan Dancers for some time, he reached out to them and also got in touch with Tlingit Formline artist Guna Megan Jensen, who helped put the film together.
“All the ideas just came together,” he said. “It took on it’s own life.”
The result is a short film that tells the story of the raven bringing light to the world in Tlingit (with English subtitles throughout) through a winter scene.
Anderson said it took between three weeks and a month to scout out locations (finally deciding on Marsh Lake), plan and trace out the huge design in the snow that is featured in the film.
The circular pattern of snow featured in the film was a significant undertaking of planning and technology.
“There was math behind it,” Anderson said, going on to describe the work to have a drone fly overhead for map work, sending live-feed back to those putting their footprints down to create the design.
It took about two weeks to shoot the film, followed by editing and post-production work.
“It turned into its own feature film,” Anderson said with a laugh.
He said he’s hopeful the piece will inspire other Indigenous filmmakers to share their own stories in their work.
He also hopes that both Indigenous and non-Indigenous viewers will see the depth in the story, though he stressed the project is more about the language and the story than the film itself.
“It’s about the words,” he said, noting he wants it to be seen as a piece that respects Indigenous language and culture.
“We were guided by the story,” he said, emphasizing the sense of community he wants to showcase in his pieces.
“That’s what I think is so special about the North,” he said.
While Anderson looks forward to having the piece screened at the festival, he is also continuing work on other projects. The most recent saw him wrap up shooting on a commercial for an Indigenous beauty-brand in recent days. He said he’s pleased 98 per cent of the cast and crew involved are Indigenous.
Tickets and a full schedule to view films being shown at imagineNATIVE can be found online.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org