What Carr Sappier’s return means for the Skoden Indigenous Film Festival

SIFF’s co-founder discusses the personal significance behind this year’s content

Sappier is proud to represent Indigenous filmmakers. Photo courtesy of SFU School for the Contemporary Arts

By: Harvin Bhathal, Features Editor

The Skoden Indigenous Film Festival (SIFF), organized by CA389 students, is in its third year. This year marks the return of one of the festival’s original co-founders, Carr Sappier. Alongside Sappier, the course is being co-lectured by Kathleen Mullen, a filmmaker, film festival consultant, and mentor of Sappier’s who helped organize the inaugural festival. 

Founded in 2019, co-creators Sappier and Grace Mathisen aimed to create an avenue for celebrating the work and voices of Indigenous filmmakers. The Peak interviewed Sappier to discuss their return and highlight the festival.

“Being back in my Wolastoqew community, Neqotkuk, has allowed me to reconnect with my people and the reason why I went to university,” said Sappier. “My profs in the film program really pushed me to think outside the box when it came to the stories I wanted to tell. 

“I’m using all that gained knowledge and experience to be a better artist and express myself as a Two-Spirit, multi-genre filmmaker in my community,” they said. “Having a better understanding of who I am and where I want to be has made me more confident in collaborating with my students in the third annual SIFF.” 

Sappier said student feedback so far in the course “has been positive, especially when we are having deeper conversations around the topic of truth and reconciliation and what that means from an Indigenous perspective.”

Sappier added, “Building our relationships on the seven sacred teachings/the Rights Relations Agreement of Love, Respect, Humility, Courage, Wisdom, Honesty and, Truth has been beneficial to our work in the practicality of organizing our festival, but also in our respect for each other.”

Continuing on, Sappier mentioned “the amazing students and their eagerness to represent this year’s festival in the best way they can” was also empowering.

Inviting guest speakers to the course “has proved to be very inspiring to [their] students,” Sappier said, explaining that the guest speakers this semester have included local Indigenous filmmakers like Jules Koostachin and Ry Friday. Sappier added, “Most importantly of all, we were able to invite our elder, Syexwaliya, to our class to help us with our land acknowledgment and she shared with us some stories that reinforced why we are doing the work we are doing.”

For future iterations of SIFF, they believe it would be beneficial for the students and the festival itself if the course was two semesters long instead of one.

“Yes, it is possible for us to make SIFF happen in three months, but I can only imagine how much more we could do if given more time. Most larger festivals like VIFF, TIFF, and ImagineNative are working all-year-around and are able to accomplish so much more. So, it excites me if we were given more time to do the work and make SCA/SFU more Indigenous inclusive and create more space for conversations and relationship building.”

Regardless, Sappier said they are thankful the festival was made into a course to begin with, as even if “there is always more that we can do,” it “takes baby steps and time.” They added that they are excited about the future relationship between SIFF and SFU.

Particularly exciting to Sappier is Back to Grassroots, a program from this year’s festival happening from 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on March 26. It will have “films that reflect on the reconnection to land, language, culture, and ancestors.”

They continued, “This program connects with me because it is something that is close to me right now as I am back home after five years in Vancouver. Now you can find me roaming around the forests and waters surrounding my community playing with my camera

“I’m so excited about all the films in all the programs and I can guarantee you, that you won’t find any film that looks the same at this year’s festival.” 

SIFF 2021 is available for viewing on Vimeo until April 5 with registration. To register for the festival, visit www.sfu.ca/sca/skoden for more details.