Wednesday, September 10, 2008


As a suitable follow-up to the Lepage piece, I'm now in Montreal, researching First Nations work for the Origins Festival - thanks to a grant from the Québec government office in London, and its amazing Cultural Director Colin Hicks.

Montréal is lovely - at least now that it's not raining. Its ambiance combines the café culture and intellectual buzz of Paris with the energy of America. Hard to imagine, I know - but that's what it feels like. I'm painfully aware of how long it is since I've really had to speak French - whenever I ask for something the bi-lingual Québécois reply in perfect (if strangely accented) English, which is simultaneously helpful and embarrassing.

I spent much of rainy Tuesday in the HQ of the National Film Board, which has a wonderful facility for viewing just about every Canadian film ever made at the click of a mouse. For somebody researching the film element of a Festival (like me, say), this is a god-send. I watch a film about an Algonquin elder, which reminds me of Allan Collins' Sunset to Sunrise (screened at the launch last year); Drew Hayden Taylor's film on Native humour; and a whole string of shorter pieces. One of these is Sigwan, a beautifully photographed 13 minute fable by the legendary Abenaki film-maker Alanis Obomsawin. Watching this amazing little parable, which in so short a time manages to brig together theatricality, the environment and ideas of reconciliation, I feel all the sadder that I wasn't able to find a contact for the director before I came: she is somebody I'd really wanted to meet, but none of my "feelers" had paid off. Walk back to the hotel (everything seems to be in walking distance, even though it's a big city), and there, with Jungian synchronicity, is an email from Alanis Obomsawin. She's heard I was here and wanting to meet her, and has emailed her mobile number. I ring it, and we arrange to meet on Friday morning. Given the timetable I'm on before then, I decide to dash back to the NFB, and, to the amazement of the girl at reception, spend a few more hours watching her films. In particular, I take in her famous documentary Kanehsatake 270 Years of Resistance: which deals with the 1990 Mohawk resistance over land rights. It's stunningly done - full of wider resonance beyond the basic issue of the golf course, which started the war-like events it covers. How we relate to land, to colonialism, to history, to nature.... all the big questions, staring at us and demanding to be answered.

No comments: