Wet’suwet’en pipeline experience to come to life for Montreal audiences

A powerful documentary that followed the Wet’suwet’en protest against a natural-gas pipeline through their traditional, unceded territory will headline the First Peoples Festival of Montreal in a little over a month.

The film, called Yintah, examines the outcry and subsequent battle over the pipeline’s construction through vast swaths of British Columbia forest and the Wet’suwet’en protest and occupation of the land.

Spanning more than a decade, the film follows Howilhkat Freda Huson and Sleydo’ Molly Wickham as their nation reoccupies and protects their ancestral lands from several of the largest fossil fuel companies.

‘Yintah’ is the story of the Indigenous right to sovereignty over Indigenous territories.

Huson, Wickham, and the Dinï ze’ and Tsakë ze’ peoples are part of a centuries-long fight to protect their children, culture, and land from colonial violence. For the Wet’suwet’en, their very future is at stake in this film—and that is made clear with the poignancy of the production.

It won the Best Canadian Documentary film at Toronto’s Hot Docs Festival on May 5.

The film will open and headline the First Peoples Festival of Montreal, which will run from August 5 to 16, and will highlight the power and complexity of Indigenous life and culture, organizers said.

“There will be a lot for people to see and hear over the course of the First Peoples Festival,” festival director Andre Dudemaine said. “We will display the beauty and strength of Indigenous people throughout the Place des Spectacles in downtown Montreal.”

Yintah is directed and produced by Jennifer Wickham, Brenda Michell and Michael Toledano.

The film will open the festival on August 6 at 7:30 p.m. at Cinema Cineplex Quartier Latin. Other screenings will be planned, Dudemaine said, but a lot of the festival’s schedule is still in then planning stages, he explained.

“It’s very fluid for now, so we don’t know exactly what day the second screening will be held,” he said. “But we will be presenting it a second time at the Cinema du Musee.”

Dudemaine said the nine-day festival will fill downtown Montreal with Indigenous experiences.

“There will be music, art exhibitions, crafts, food and all kinds of immersive experiences. It will be a delight for the senses and we are very, very excited about it,” Dudemaine added.

Festival organizers said the beauty of Native art will emerge to envelop downtown Montreal and festival-goers.

“Aboriginal art, far too long suppressed and forgotten in its trenches, emerges in style and takes back the upper hand,” organizers wrote. “To the sound of drums, a joyful cohort carries the banners of cultures with long and ancient roots, proudly reblooming in the Montreal landscape. Old yet new, they strut their stuff in the new spirit that animates them when First Peoples' Festival is in full swing.”

Marc Lalonde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Iori:wase