Non-Indigenous film director Justin Kingsley wasn’t sure if he was even going to make Chaakapesh: The Trickster’s Quest, but the new documentary, which screens this weekend in Ottawa, soon became a collaborative act of reconciliation.
“I’ve seen the ills that my forefathers created in the reserves and it disgusts me, this cultural genocide,” says Kingsley.
“So for me, the ability to come and play a part in showing instead of talking – let’s do it, let’s show how we can all collaborate – and if we start judging people on the contents of their character instead of the containers themselves then we’re going to move forward together.”
The film documents the Montreal Symphony Orchestra’s tour of Cree, Innu and Inuk communities in northern Quebec.
But the symphony didn’t travel all the way north just to play Mozart and Beethoven – it performed a chamber opera called Chaakapesh.
Chaakapesh, explains Kingsley, is a trickster.
“The idea behind it is, if white men learn how to laugh, they’ll learn how to love and maybe through love they’ll stop the massacre of innocent Indigenous people in Labrador.”
The opera also featured a spoken word component by renowned musician, playwright and novelist Tomson Highway.
It also screens in three northern Quebec communities in early February.