The Forest City Film Festival will run a specially curated Indigenous Shorts Program to highlight local Indigenous creators and their stories this Saturday.
The screening of eight films takes place at 10 a.m. in the Wolf Performance Hall, coordinated by Judith Schuyler of the Oneida of the Thames First Nation and hosted by Janet Rogers, a Mohawk artist and filmmaker.
The films will range from one-minute long animations to 15-minute long narratives. This is the first time since the festival’s founding in 2016 that this many southwestern Ontario Indigenous filmmakers, writers and directors have the opportunity to showcase their work.
According to the festival’s media coordinator, Zahra Habib, the Indigenous Shorts Program is about exploring and celebrating identity. Each filmmaker has a different approach — some use humour and an upbeat tone, while others illuminate the harsh realities of government injustices.
But Habib says the point of the program is not to strictly approach Indigeneity through the lens of being oppressed — the shorts come together to explore various cultural riches and complexities.
“I love to see people celebrating who they are, even in spite of the fact that colonialism, mainstream society and Western culture as a whole fights against that,” she says.
The festival’s Indigenous programming is an opportunity to get different nations, tribes and communities the creative exposure that dominant structures have not given them, according to Habib.
Habib says she believes there’s a crucial humanizing aspect when the faces of people from the local region who are rarely represented on screen are portrayed in an authentic way.
“From a student perspective, this is a real opportunity for education,” says Habib.
Habib says that, while the screening is certainly not an endpoint to education and working towards decolonization, it opens up a perspective people otherwise may have not had access to.
“The festival is being trusted as a platform to tell these stories,” says Habib. “We’re very grateful to have that opportunity.”
Tickets to the Indigneous screening can be purchased on their website. All eight films will also be available for streaming five days after the festival ends. Virtual on-demand tickets for this can also be purchased on the festival’s website.