31st edition of First Peoples Festival celebrates Indigenous arts and culture

·2 min read
The First Peoples Festival has been highlighting the work of Indigenous artists from around the world for 30 years. (Marc Saindon/Ixion Communications - image credit)
The First Peoples Festival has been highlighting the work of Indigenous artists from around the world for 30 years. (Marc Saindon/Ixion Communications - image credit)

While many of this summer's festivals have been limited by the fact that Canada's borders are still not open to visiting performers, the 31st edition of First Peoples Festival has a distinctly international feel to its programming.

With an emphasis on film projections, the festival is finding ways to highlight Indigenous stories from around the world.

Festival director André Dudemaine told CBC's Daybreak that creating a festival lineup that provides a platform for artists from all over is an act of solidarity and contact with all Indigenous people.

"In the 21st century, it is internationally that we open our mind and our heart to our Indigenous brothers and sisters all around the world," he said.

The festival, which runs from Aug. 3 to 12, features screenings of 60 films, live concerts at the Place des Festivals, theatre and visual arts.

Dudemaine, whose mother is from the Innu community of Mashteuiatsh on the western shore of Lac Saint-Jean, helped start the festival 30 years ago as a way to valorize Indigenous art.

Jean-Francois Villeneuve/Radio-Canada
Jean-Francois Villeneuve/Radio-Canada

"The best ambassadors for a nation are the artists because they have a language that everybody will automatically connect to," said Dudemaine.

He said the festival provided a place for emerging artists when there was very little recognition of Indigenous art and artists.

Dudemaine says things have changed since the festival first began, with Indigenous artists finally being welcomed into mainstream museums and festivals.

Among the events at this year's edition of the festival, more than 60 films will be screened in competition for the coveted Mattiusi awards, and artists like Buffalo Hat Singers, husband and wife duo Twin Flames and Anishinaabe country singer Gator Beaulieu will perform at the Quartier des Spectacles.

Atikamekw playwright Véronique Hébert is set to share a "poetic-theatrical" performance of "Notcimik, Where Our Blood Comes From."

One of the films being screened at Cinéma du Musée is Haudenosaunee Canoe Journey, created by Mohawk director Roxann Whitebean.

Watch the trailer for Haudenosaunee Canoe Journey:

The festival will also feature a book launch and some online events, in keeping with the hybrid model adopted by most festivals this summer.

Dudemaine said that the event was forced to go online last year, but they chose to keep virtual elements this year in an effort to expand their offering.

He felt that curating online events were a way to reach larger audiences and help Indigenous communities who may be spread out to still participate and watch artists from their regions perform in Montreal.

The First Peoples Festival in Montreal runs from Aug. 3 to 12. Find a full schedule of events here.

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