Cree filmmaker Jules Koostachin believes industry now understands that Indigenous voices matter

When Cree filmmaker Jules Koostachin was pitching her first feature-length film, she was getting so used to being rejected and hearing “No” that she thinks she may have fallen out of her chair when she finally hear the word “Yes.”

Koostachin knew in her heart that Broken Angel, a film she has been working on since 2006, was an important story that people needed to see.

The film, about a Cree woman and her daughter fleeing gender-based abuse, is an issue Koostachin knows firsthand from working at a women’s shelter.

“Working in the shelter system since 2006, I’ve seen everything and I know the reality of systemic racism and discrimination and violence against Indigenous women, I was living it,” says Koostachin on the latest episode of Face to Face.

“And I felt like even though I was getting all of these rejections, people were saying that there’s no audience for it, it’s not an important enough story, like I was told everything you could possible imagine but I just kept going, I felt like it needed to be out in the world.”

Koostachin believes the film finally got the green light because of a big shift going on in the industry.

“I feel like our voices matter,” she says. “They always mattered, but I feel we need to be part of any story that has to deal with Indigenous issues and content and I feel like the Canadian industry understands that now.”

Watch the movie trailer for Broken Angel: 

Koostachin says the film, which recently played at the Whistler Film Festival, is a tribute to the “resiliency of Indigenous women, especially those she met at the shelter.”

“I know in our industry, as Indigenous creators we’ve been told, ‘let’s focus on the happy stories, lets focus on the positive.’ Yes, I totally agree, but we totally have to find a balance as well. We can’t erase these stories because they’re still happening,” says Koostachin.

“I think when we have more Indigenous women in key creative roles, then we’ll speak to the issues that are important to us and issues that we need to shed light on.”

Broken Angel is part of a trilogy, and Koostachin is already at work on the second film, Angela’s Shadow.  All of the actors are returning, including Koostachin’s son Asivak, this time playing different characters. The film also has a bigger budget and longer production schedule.

In addition to Angela’s Shadow, Koostachin is also working on two documentaries and co-writing the screenplay for the recently announced film adaptation of Richard Wagamese’s novel Ragged Company.

In addition to all of that, Koostachin is also the voice of Layla, Molly’s mother on the cartoon, Molly of Denali.

“I have so many young people recognize me or just hear my voice and know who I am,” says Koostachin who believes the kids show in important for representation.

Molly from Denali is cultural content, it has language, it talks about relationships and love and family. We do touch on harder things or more challenging topics but we do it in a way that is appropriate for a younger audience,” she says.

“These are the things that are happening in our community with our youth, with our children so we have to address them and I feel like Molly of Denali, does all of that.”

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