Yukoner John Graham couldn’t attend last week’s Available Light Film Festival.
The Champagne-Aishihik man is under house arrest in Vancouver, pending extradition to the US to face murder charges for the death of Anna-Mae Aquash 30 years ago.
But Graham protested one of the festival’s screening choices, nonetheless.
On Sunday night the festival closed with a screening of the American documentary Trudell.
Twelve-years in the making, this film follows First Nations activist John Trudell’s journey across North America after his pregnant wife, three children and mother-in-law all died in a mysterious fire.
“Trudell is an eloquent and powerful spokesman for the North American Indian movement and has suffered a great personal loss, directly because of his role as a spokesperson,” said festival programmer Michael Vernon when he introduced the film.
But Trudell is also the primary witness for the prosecution in the case against Graham.
And on Friday Graham phoned the Yukon Film Society to protest the Trudell screening.
“Graham stands accused and faces extradition on the evidence of a homeless alcoholic who has since recanted his statement to the police, and hearsay evidence provided by John Trudell,” said Vernon.
On February 21st, 2005, BC Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett stated that a determining factor in her decision to extradite Graham was the hearsay testimony of Trudell.
“Having met both accused men, their friends and family, and having reviewed the evidence and information at our disposal, we state clearly the case against Mr. Graham and Arlo Looking Cloud is based on lies and disinformation provided by the FBI, police, informants and collaborators,” states the Native Youth Movement in a release.
Trudell and Graham were once friends. Graham even housed Trudell when he sought refugee status in Canada.
“At one point I would have taken a bullet for that guy,” Graham said in a release.
But Trudell’s testimony soured their previous relations.
“I couldn’t believe John Trudell had the nerve to have his movie shown in the Yukon,” said John Graham’s daughter Naneek Graham from Vancouver.
“It’s ridiculous and frustrating that the movie is being shown up there. And we don’t have enough family up there to protest it, we’re all down here supporting my dad.”
When Vernon programmed Trudell for the festival, he was not aware of the personal connection between Graham and Trudell, and was especially ignorant of the damaging impact Trudell had in the current case against Graham.
However, he still believes Trudell’s story should be heard, he said.
The film doesn’t mention Graham or the murder.
“I’m glad we programmed the film,” said festival producer Andy Connors.
“It is better to show it and have people engaged in dialogue and the issues, rather than not show it.
“It is all good consciousness raising and part of a larger dialogue — we’re leaving it to the audience to educate themselves on John Graham.”
“Throughout the film, Trudell speaks eloquently about the injustice suffered by North American aboriginal people,” said Vernon.
“It’s important to remember this injustice is still occurring today and the case of John Graham is a direct result of that.”
Graham’s defense lawyer will appeal the extradition decision this summer.