(Submitted by Deneze Nakehk'o - image credit)
The Łı́ı́dlı̨ Kų́ e First Nation will be hosting its second annual film festival later this month, showcasing the work of Northern filmmakers and Indigenous stories.
The festival, which runs from Feb. 21 to 27, will focus on films based in the Dehcho region.
The CBC short documentary I Hold the Dehcho in My Heart - Sedze Tah Dehcho E'Toh in Dene Zhatie will be shown at the film festival.
The documentary centres on the experiences of two Indigneous women as they reconnect with Dene culture and spirituality on their ancestral homelands. It follows a group of students with the Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning during the summer of 2017 as they canoe down the Dehcho.
Deneze Nakehk'o helped film the project. Originally from Łı́ı́dlı̨ Kų́ e, Fort Simpson, he is a co-founder of Dene Nahjo.
"It was kind of like every road in my life led to me being on the river at that moment," Nakehk'o said.
He said it merged his background in journalism and filmmaking with being on the land, where his ancestors used to live and travel.
More Northern Indigenous representation
Nakehk'o said he got involved in journalism and filmmaking to tell Indigenous stories from an authentic perspective.
In the media, Indigenous people are portrayed largely through four different stereotypes.
"We're either drunk, dead, dancing or drumming," Nakehk'o said. "We kind of fit into those areas, but there's more to us than that. So, being able to tell authentic stories is what's really important."
He said that representation of Indigenous people in mediums like journalism, film, or other art forms is incredibly valuable.
When Nakehk'o was growing up, he said that seeing other northern Indigenous people on the news and hearing them speak in their languages "made me believe that, you know what? If they could do it, maybe I could do that."
He hopes that showing the documentary in Fort Simpson will inspire more generations of youth from the community to make films or be creative in other ways.
"As Indigenous folks, not only are we strong and resilient, but I think equally, we're very creative. We have a very powerful imagination," Nakehk'o said.
Strong connection to community
Lesley Johnson directed the CBC short documentary I Hold the Dehcho in my Heart along with Revolution Moosehide, both of which will be shown at the festival.
Both films revolve around the experiences of Dene women from the Dehcho as they become more involved in their culture and learn on the land.
"The thing that I'm really excited about in particular for that is that both of these films have a really strong connection to the community in particular," Johnson said.
"I'm really grateful for the opportunity to be able to screen these films because I think it's such a hometown crowd and I'm really proud of that."
Filmmaking as a powerful tool for activism
Johnson's also been a producer on Dene: A Journey, an APTN series that documents the personal endeavours of Dene people as they practice cultural resurgence and reconnect with the land and culture.
Johnson was drawn to film because "it's a medium that can share these stories and tell them in a way that really provokes people's emotions," she said.
The power of storytelling through film, especially when it comes to themes such as identity, cultural resurgence and decolonization, is that people are able to relate to the experiences of the people that they see on the screen.
"You can construct an essay out of people's ideas, but I think it's really more powerful for them to go through something, and that you can watch them as they progress and as their life unfolds, and how they're starting to connect with these bigger ideas and themes around them," Johnson said.
The film festival will be held at the recreation centre in Fort Simpson, where only 22 people are allowed per film. Social distancing, masks, and hand sanitizer will be enforced.