In St. John’s, a new initiative is aiming to change who tells their stories.
Jenelle Duval is the arts and culture coordinator for First Light Friendship Centre in St. John’s. She says it’s important that Indigenous people get more representation in the arts. James Grudic/Kicker
The St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival and First Light Friendship Centre have partnered on a new program that provides filmmaking opportunities for Indigenous people.
FRAMED Spirit Song is an education series offering paid training to new filmmakers. They are offering five filmmaking positions for everything from directing to still photography. The team will work together on a 15-minute documentary about the Spirit Song festival in St. John’s in November. The arts festival features Indigenous visual artists, craft artisans and musicians.
For the last two decades, FRAMED has been an initiative designed to encourage new filmmakers in the province.
Jenelle Duval is the arts and culture coordinator for First Light. She says it’s important that Indigenous people have a seat at the filmmaking table.
“The initiatives that First Light has been taking on over the last decade are about elevating Indigenous art practices,” she said.
“Indigenous people are often underrepresented in fields such as film, so it’s important that we provide space for visibility.”
Aside from giving Indigenous people more presence in filmmaking, FRAMED Spirit Song is giving paid work instead of just free education.
“We need to create a culture of values where art equals work,” said Duval.
“These artists will put their heart and soul into this film and they deserve to be compensated for that.”
Latonia Hartery is with the St. John’s International Film Festival and in charge of the FRAMED program for 2021. She says that as an Indigenous art festival, the story of Spirit Song should be documented by Indigenous people.
“We’ve spent so much time not having control over our own stories, so this is a way for us to create an opportunity where we’re telling our own stories, from the very start to the very end.”
“Here in N.L., people have been getting footage of Indigenous people…even making films about Indigenous people, but they haven’t been told by Indigenous people,” Hartery said.
Regaining control of the narrative, says Duval, is important for Indigenous storytelling in the contemporary context.
“We’ve spent so much time not having control over our own stories, so this is a way for us to create an opportunity where we’re telling our own stories, from the very start to the very end,” said Duval.
Hartery, a seasoned filmmaker, hopes that FRAMED Spirit Song will not only help push Indigenous people to the front of the filmmaking scene in the province, but will also yield an exciting and compelling documentary.
“It really is this beautiful group effort to try and tell an engaging story about Spirit Song Festival, but also to elevate all the voices that need elevating,” said Hartery.