Online Film Screenings

14 members of the Nakoda AV Club stand in a line facing the camera

Enjoy a selection of films by Indigenous filmmakers, curated by A.J. Baptiste and in partnership with The Nakoda AV Club

Films curated by A.J. Baptiste
A.J.Baptiste is a storyteller through film, music, and the arts. Their practice is grounded in writing (music, plays, and scripts for film) and acting. They've had the pleasure of working with Lunchbox Theatre and Calgary Opera in both stage and behind the scenes roles. Full bio details and artists statement below. 

The Nakoda AV Club is a storytelling society, an arts collective, and a group of emerging and established artists, mostly based in Mînîthnî (Morley, Alberta). 

Watch films on this page until June 28. 
(Films end at 10pm MT on June 28)

Film Synopses

As the Smoke Rises
A T’exelcemc Elder from Williams Lake First Nation explains the energy and tremendous healing power of smudging sage handed down by the ancients thousands of years ago. For this Elder, smudging becomes a pathway to follow towards reconnecting with culture, that also leads away from coping mechanisms for trauma that can be part of modern life. 
2019 | Sharon Heigl (writer) | 12:07 min.

Biidaaban (The Dawn Comes)
Since time immemorial, Indigenous people have harvested sap from trees to produce syrup, a practice that continues today.  Biidaaban, a young Indigenous genderfluid person, and Sabe, a Sasquatch shape-shifter, set out to harvest sap from sugar maples in their urban environment. Biidaabaan can see traces of time, people, creatures and land. By harvesting syrup in this way, they are continuing the work of their ancestors.
2017 | Amanda Strong | 19:14 min.

Heartbeat of a Nation
In Heartbeat of a Nation, a short documentary by Eric Janvier that celebrates Dene cultural reclamation and revitalization, a father passes on traditional knowledge to his child through the teachings of a caribou drum.
2022 | Eric Janvier | 20:27 min.

Two Spirited  
This short documentary presents the empowering story of Rodney "Geeyo" Poucette's struggle against prejudice in the Indigenous community as a two-spirited person (gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender). It is part of First Stories, an emerging filmmaker program for Indigenous youth which produced 3 separate collections of short films from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.
2007 | Sharon A. Desjarlais | 6:51 min.

A. J. Benjamin (Jace Baptiste) Artist Statement

Storytelling is a passion of mine, whether it be fictional or nonfiction. Whatever inspires me to write a story, I’m going to pick up a pen, or in the digital world type, and write a story.
Everything around us has a story, there’s stories in trees, plants, the water, animals, different cultural backgrounds, birds that soar the skies to the mountains that make beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Even the sun, moon and stars have their stories. Many stories are told throughout the beginning of time and it’s an honor to hear different perspectives to certain stories. Not one story is the true story, one just hasn’t heard from a different perspective. Upon selecting these films, it’s important to listen in on what Elders teach. There’s too many outside influences on the young generation, and the traditions and cultural practices such as storytelling are slowly fading away.

Our Ancestors are among the sacred within our tribes. Learning from what’s been done in the past so that we can make a better future for generations to come. Keeping the traditions alive is to stay connected to our Ancestors, the film Biidaaban (The Dawn Comes) directed by Amanda Strong, shows us through animation the difficulty of that while living in an industrial world. Respecting each other is another part of staying connected. No matter the gender or sexual preference people have, it’s important to recognize each other as human beings. The film, Two-Spirit directed by Sharon A. Desjarlais, tells the story of the important roles Two Spirit members (a term used by Indigenous people in North America) play in Indigenous communities. I wanted this film to be showcased to remind both the older and newer generations to respect Two Spirit members and to not judge them upon their identity.

Teaching the next generation is a tough one. I may not have children of my own, but I do have nieces and nephews who are at the stage where one small thing can ruin a teenager's day. I remember asking my mother if I ever acted like that and all she gave me was a smile. I guess I was at that stage at one point in time. The film Heartbeat of a Nation directed by Eric Janvier, showcases the importance of generational relationships between a father, son and grandmother. It also shows how a sacred object, like the hand drum, is made and the teachings that come along with it, using tools and techniques both older and new. You don’t need to go into a building to learn, all you need is the natural world, your own two hands, help from your Elders and the animal who gifts itself to you after leaving an offering.

Traditions such as the smudge are sacred amongst Indigenous tribes. To speak to the Creator, one must gather the materials for the smudge and share what they’re going through. It may not answer all your questions, but it’ll direct you to the right path to find your answer. The film As the Smoke Rises directed by Sharon Heigl, shows you the importance of the smudge.

I’ve watched these films a few times to grasp the concept of the storytelling. To inspire myself the type of storytelling (and writing) I want to do in my work. I am no expert, but I’m learning different types of storytelling and the importance of stories. I’ve probably said this too many times, stories are what connects us to all living things. There can be variations of a story and what matters the most is the story exists. I am inspired by everything around me to write or type up a story, again both fiction and nonfiction. A story can come out of anything, all you have to do is take time to study both the natural world and the world that’s mostly based around technology and become inspired to learn what you can about both worlds. That’s all we want, is to be heard, to be understood, to be accepted and to tell our stories. The message of these films is to be open and honest. To share your story.