WIKWEMIKONG— The Wapikoni mobile film studio returned to Wikwemikong again this year and the young participants created five outstanding film projects that cover a wide range of activities and subjects. The films were presented to the community at a special screening that took place at 6 pm Thursday, June 4 at the Wikwemikong Arena.

“This has been a very rewarding experience for all of us,” said Mathieu Melançon, the Wapikoni mobile point person on the Wikwemikong project. “We are not always used to this level of participation and involvement from the community. It was very impressive. The films were more collaborative as well, very much so. They each have a very positive outlook.”

“First, we have Daniel’s (Lewis) film, M’tik Woop (Stick and String), about archery. He and his comrade Harvey provided us with amazing footage of their skill shots, but most importantly it’s their wit, wisdom and sense of humour that make for a great film,” said Mr. Melançon. “Archery is very much a traditional skill with the Anishinaabe, but they are not so well represented on the competitive circuit as you would expect. It is a paradox explored in the film.”

“We also have Brandon (Assiniwai) and Malakai (Shawanda) who worked on their slideshow film ‘Bike 4 Life, Part II’,” said Mr. Melançon. “The short film showcases the two bikers’ jumps and tricks and their plea for more secure venues for dirt bikers. This project grew out of a previous Wapikoni film by Jared Peltier and Josh Shawanda.” The young filmmakers learned skills and techniques that the Wapikoni crew hope to build upon when they next come to visit.

Curtis, Arcadia and Kyle take in a camera workshop with Wapikoni’s Matthieu Buzzetti.
Curtis, Arcadia and Kyle take in a camera workshop with Wapikoni’s Matthieu Buzzetti.

“Curtis (Kagige) and his daughter Arcadia came in for camera training one day and from then on they pretty much soloed their way to a beautifully shot and tightly edited short film on breakdancing,” noted Mr. Melançon. “Needless to say we were impressed.”

“We are also proud to announce Leo’s (Peltier of the Wikwemikong Lands department) first film with Wapikoni, an exposé about the Lands Department’s mission to identify and secure the oil wells that were left around the Island by careless companies,” said Mr. Melançon. Leo is 20-years-old an intern at the Lands Department. This film is important as it should raise awareness on these serious environmental issues, with the intention of maybe inspiring other communities to take on similar initiatives to protect their land.”

“Our next film was Debbie’s (Mishibinijima) second project with Wapikoni, called Mishkiki Miikaaning (Medicine Path),” said Mr. Melançon. “She directed a beautiful, artistic piece on the medicinal herbs and the wisdom and precious knowledge of her dad Peter. We are very proud of Debbie and the progress she’s made as a filmmaker.”

And last but not least was perhaps our most unusual film to date ‘Unceded,’ an original idea by Ogimaa (Chief) Duke Peltier and directed by local historian Naomi Recollet,” said Mr. Melançon. “Through fascinating interviews and precious archival imagery, Naomi explains to us the meaning of what being “unceded” really means and how the wampum belts solemnize the promise that the Anishnabek people will always be the guardians of Wikwemikong.”

Malakai and Brandon come to the trailer to present their project.
Malakai and Brandon come to the trailer to present their project.

Part of what made Ms. Recollet’s film so unusual was the involvement of the chief of the community, noted Mr. Melançon. “Chief Peltier first brought forward the idea and was going to direct it himself, but time constraints of his office made that impossible. Naomi agreed to take on the project and worked countless hours gathering the information and piecing the footage together, well assisted by Duke throughout the process. The result is a powerful film that will certainly travel long and far. We are honoured that Duke and Naomi have trusted Wapikoni to assist them in this important endeavour.”

Wapikoni will be returning again next year for another season of filmmaking. “The hope at this point is to return in September next year,” said Mr. Melançon, who explained that Wapikoni tries to return to the same communities over a long period of time to build skills within that community. “We try to bring at least some of the same mentors back with us each year to provide some continuity to the project.”

The films were expected to be uploaded to the Wapikoni site and the participants each have a copy of their films. “So they may be shared around the community now as well,” said Mr. Melançon. The Wapikoni website at wapikoni.ca should have films available by the time this paper hits the shelves and people are invited to check out the films in person.

“I don’t think anyone could be disappointed,” said Mr. Melançon. “All of the filmmakers did a great, great job.”