Indigenous film festival based out of Manitoulin Island goes online

“Our program reflects our voices, supports and celebrates Indigenous filmmakers, crew, artists, musicians and communities.”

Now in its third year, the Weengushk International Film Festival has moved online amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shirley Cheechoo is chancellor of Brock University, as well as a filmmaker and founder of the festival, which is based out of M’Chiigeeng on Manitoulin Island in Ontario.

“It’s a way to express our voices, our issues, our storytelling – and to be able to help with the whole truth and reconciliation and also help people with decolonization in the country,” Cheechoo told APTN News.

“It’s full of Indigenous films from Indigenous filmmakers. It is also a lot of free workshops, a lot of free music as well because music is part of storytelling and most of the musicians are from northern Ontario.”

The festival opens July 9 with Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald, who is also a filmmaker, and Jesse Wente of the Ontario Indigenous Screen Office.

Shirley Cheechoo founded the Weengushk International Film Festival.

Six Nations actor Gary Farmer will present an acting workshop on July 10, followed by a retrospective of the work of Cheechoo. Canadian Screen Award-winning director Jennifer Podemski will host a production workshop on the final day July 12.

More than 30 films will be screened at the festival including: The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open, The Long Ride Home, There Are No Fakes, Red Snow, Johnny Tootall, Bearwalker, Fast Horse, Happy Face, Her Water Drum, One Day in the Life of Noah Piugattuk and many others.

Musical performances by Nick Sherman, Adrian Sutherland, Crystal Shawanda and Leland Bell are also part of programming.

“Our program reflects our voices, supports and celebrates Indigenous filmmakers, crew, artists, musicians and communities,” Cheechoo said.  “With the pandemic and racism and social injustice at the forefront, we knew we had to take our festival online this year to offer these amazing voices to audiences around the world.”

Tickets can be found by visiting the festival website at weengushkfilmfestival.ca or  searching Weengushk International Film Festival on Facebook.

Allana is a graduate of the Indigenous Studies program at Trent University and the new media journalism program at Sheridan College. She worked at Sudbury.com and TVO before coming to APTN National News where she now covers Indigenous stories in Southern Ontario as a video journalist. McDougall is a member of Hiawatha First Nation.