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Discipline, Action, Responsibility, Excellence

Dreams for the Future: Movie Making in Attawapiskat

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From the desk of Laura MacKinnon, DAREarts’ Lead Teacher

Warm spring wind was blowing through Toronto, but Shelley MacDonald (DAREarts), Kaitlyn Ferris (Noront), Nathanael Chadwick (Amethyst Images) and myself arrived to a snow-blanketed winter wonderland in Attawapiskat.

Photo 1

Welcomed by high school teacher Mandy Alves, we embarked on our Mining Movie Making program with 25 of her grade 9 students at Vezina Secondary School.  Although we have facilitated this program in several communities around northern Ontario, the students in each place bring unique experiences, cultural and personal perspectives and talents to the project.  The myriad of creative ideas never ceases to amaze us!

We began our first day with Shelley MacDonald, DAREarts’ Vancouver teacher and Aboriginal media artist, leading us in a name activity.  Using pastel on black paper, each student wrote their name across the middle and filled the rest of the space with words, pictures and symbols representing things they care about that cannot be bought.  To symbolize the creation of our new team for the week, we connected the names in a circle.  Each person in the room, student and teacher alike, had an important contribution to bring to the film project, informed by where they come from and what they care about.

Photo 2

 After some engaging, hands-on mining education activities, we delved into the filmmaking.  The film crews were quickly established and brainstorming began.  A diverse array of ideas emerged, a testament the creativity of our participants.  We had an idea for a mini documentary looking at the community through a past- present-future lens, a commercial for a mining-based video game, a stop motion animation called “Mineral Adventure” and a Simpsons parody entitled “Homer and the Mine”.

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I mentored a strong group of girls who created the mini-documentary about their life in Attawapiskat, looking at the past and present and putting forth wishes for the future, tied in with the affect mining has had on them and their community.

With DeBeers operating a diamond mine only 90 kilometres away, it’s a topic that is relevant, close to home and worth discussing.  The girls were candid about the positive and negative aspects of the mine – it provides employment, but takes employees away from home.  There are currently jobs, but the mine may close a number of years from now.  There are economic benefits, but protecting the health of the water, land and people is paramount.

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With a plan in hand, the group embarked into the outdoors to shoot the film, bundled against the bitter temperatures.  I had the privilege of walking around the community with the girls, chatting about its history, buildings, services and people.

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Three days of planning, shooting and editing culminated in a short film with a strong message: the voices of youth are powerful, and they have dreams of a bright future.  The future they envision is one stimulated by education, driven by a desire to prosper in a way that protects traditional values and is supported by a healthy environment and equitable access to services. 

Photo 6

We held a film screening on the last morning, with the whole high school in attendance.  While many of the students covered their faces or expressed embarrassment at their films being shown in front of an audience, the pride in their work was evident as one girl shyly asked, “Will we get a copy of our movie to keep?”

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