By Rick Garrick
Seeking Bimaadiziiwin filmmakers Michelle Derosier and Dave Clement were not the only ones surprised with the massive turnout at the benefit screening of their award-winning film.
“It was profound,” says Rosie Mosquito, one of about 300 people who packed Thunder Bay’s Finlandia Club in January to support the creators of the 30-minute drama that looks into the challenges of teen suicide and depression among Aboriginal youth. “I’m really proud of the turnout – it was educational for the whole community at large. Not too many people realize how daunting that experience has been.”
After the screening of the film, which was a co-production between Derosier and Clement’s Thunderstone Pictures and Kelly Saxberg’s Shebandowan Films, the cast and crew gathered on stage and shared their experiences and feelings.
“I always get teary-eyed and I’ve seen it 100 times,” says Derosier, the Eagle Lake band member and Lakehead University Aboriginal student counsellor who wrote the script and also performed the role of Aboriginal therapist in the film. “The cast of young people are so amazing.”
Derosier explains afterwards that she has lost a brother to suicide, and that the meaning of the film is about seeking life.
“Seeking the good life is very important,” she says.
Brent Achneepineskum, who played James, says the film is about helping young people achieve their goals and dreams.
“It was so painful and hard hitting,” he says. “I knew I had to be part of this project.”
Saxberg, who directed the film along with Clement, organized the benefit screening for Derosier and Clement after most of their film and computer equipment and years of intellectual property were stolen this past November during a break-in at the Thunderstone Pictures office in Thunder Bay.
“It happened while we were in Winnipeg at the Winnipeg Aboriginal Film Festival,” Derosier says. “They took our whole creative editing suite, monitors, cameras and seven hard drives. The hard drives had seven years of work on them.”
Seeking Bimaadiziiwin was nominated for Best Short Film at the Winnipeg Aboriginal Festival and took the Best Live Action Short Film award at the Nov. 2007 American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco and the 1st People’s Choice Award at the Sept. 2007 Bay Street Film Festival in Thunder Bay.
“The message is hope,” Derosier says, describing Seeking Bimaadiziiwin. “It’s about young people supporting each other. But it is also about some of the issues young people face.”
Derosier explains that she wrote the film to encourage young Aboriginal people to think about some of their issues.
“And hopefully some healing will come from it,” she says. “It has already had an impact with the non-aboriginal community as an education tool. It was not really the intent of the film, but it is really beautiful to see that happening.”
A wide variety of organizations in Thunder Bay have viewed the film to date, including Lakehead University, a number of high schools and public schools, Dilico Ojibway Child and Family Services – District Mental Health Team, New Experiences Program, Confederation College, Thunder Bay Regional Sciences Centre and an Ontario Health Association Conference.
“St. Joseph’s Care Group is interested in screening it for their staff,” Derosier says, noting that Dr. Paul Mulzer, a St. Joseph’s Care Group psychiatrist, was the executive producer and helped develop the film in collaboration with Derosier and an aboriginal steering committee. “Part of the reason is that it speaks of some truths – like residential school, alcoholism, and historical relationships of the community. All of the kids in the film have been personally touched by suicide.”
Derosier, Clement and Saxberg are currently completing a companion documentary to Seeking Bimaadiziiwin, Finding Manajiiwin (Finding Respectful Knowledge), which is scheduled to be ready by February.
“Finding Manajiiwin deals with cultural competency when working with First Nations people,” Derosier says, explaining that there is currently a lack of culturally competent resources for use in the health field. “It’s honest and hard-hitting.”
The Union of Ontario Indians FASD Program is seeking the submission of photographs of aboriginal children (ranging from newborn to age 10 for publication in an aboriginal children’s environmental health manual.
Preference will be given to photos of children: in regalia, taking part in traditional activities, engaging in healthy activities, or infants in a moss bag or cradleboard.
Each child will be paid a $40 honorarium for the use of their photo. Parents must be willing to sign a release granting permission for the use of their child’s photo, both in the manual and in publications promoting the new resource. We also wish to include the child’s name and member community in the resource.
Submissions must be received by March 14, 2008.