Skoden Indigenous Film Festival launches fourth year at SFU

The festival highlights Indigenous filmmakers and storytellers from across Canada

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Illustration poster of one of the films featured at the festival
Angakusajaujuq-Shaman’s Apprentice by Zacharias Kunuk is among the seven films featured at the opening ceremony screening on April 1. PHOTO: Skoden Indigenous Film Festival

By: Karissa Ketter, News Writer

SFU School for Contemporary Arts (SCA) is hosting the Skoden Indigenous Film Festival (SIFF) this April 1–2, 2022. Entering its fourth consecutive year, SIFF was created in 2019 by students Grace Mathisen and Carr Sappier.

In an email statement to The Peak, Carr Sappier, two-spirited Wolastoqew co-founder and co-instructor of SIFF noted, “We wanted to create an Indigenous film festival for a lot of reasons but one of them being to create more space for Indigenous voices at SFU and practice true reconciliation between non-Indigenous members at SFU and the Indigenous community of local filmmakers.”

After the first year of SIFF, it was developed into a course at SFU in the SCA program. The program is taught by Sappier, Kathleen Mullen, and festival intern, Akira (Iahtail Swampy Cree from Attawapiskat and Métis).

According to SIFF’s website, Skoden is a unifying slang word for “let’s go then” that transcends a single language and community. The website notes, “It’s an attitude and a battle cry and we’ve decided to take it to heart.” For Sappier, “Skoden represents a sense of happiness, inclusion, and a space where all filmmakers can feel like they are part of something that holds them up in respect.

“SIFF is one example of how SFU can support Indigenous voices, especially emerging filmmakers who may not have had one of their films play on the big screen,” said Sappier.

Teresa Donck, a co-lead of the programming committee for SIFF told The Peak, “The films shown at Skoden are all made by Indigenous filmmakers and tell Indigenous stories. A lot of the films in the 2022 program share oral traditions and teachings, and often bring them into a contemporary context.”

Sappier added, “We have films about the effects of colonization, intergenerational trauma, reclaiming culture, language, music and all told through many genres such as documentary, narrative, animation, experimental and music videos.” 

“Skoden acts as an avenue to educate and activate a dialogue about reconciliation,” said Donck. “Indigenous folks are often lumped together and the nuances between different Indigenous cultures are not understood. There are many stereotypical representations of Indigenous people that persist today, which is why it is so important for Indigenous folks to tell their own stories.” 

In an interview with The Peak, co-lead of SIFF marketing Maraya Franca said, “It’s always important to listen and learn from Indigenous people, but being a part of this festival has made me truly realize the importance of giving them a space to share their knowledge and stories.”

In the film industry, Indigenous peoples face “tremendous systemic barriers,” said Donck, citing racism, tokenism, and white-supremacy, among others.

Sappier mentions the struggle for rural Indigenous filmmakers. “There are many challenges, especially for more rural Indigenous filmmakers who don’t have access to the same things as filmmakers in the city. However, this creative adaptability to use what you have is evident in a lot of the films at SIFF 2022 and I think that is important to mention. Film is a very reflective art form and uses methods of oral tradition that have been passed on through generations. ” 

Sappier said, “Things are definitely shifting as more Indigenous filmmakers are being recognized and sharing more spaces in the mainstream. The Indigenous arts scene also supports one another and there is a strong sense of community within this circle of peers. It took me a long time to find my people, but once I did, it was refreshing and invigorating to work with like-minded people to create films we all could be proud to show our communities.”

The event will have Indigenous filmmakers on a Q&A panel for guests. “What I hope for the Q&As is to create an opportunity for young and emerging Indigenous filmmakers to ask questions, connect with, and to find encouragement and mentorship from filmmakers in the festival,” said Donck. 

“Indigenous people have something to say. And it’s beautiful, truthful, sometimes painful, but always worthy of listening to and learning from. I hope they leave with open hearts and minds, and are encouraged to take action,” said Franca. “It’s so clear how much Skoden means to Carr, and that love has poured over into all of us,” she added.

“SIFF is all about inclusivity and respect and I hope that shines throughout the weekend of the festival. I hope filmmakers are inspired by all the kinds of films in the programs and how they were carefully curated. I hope attendants leave the theatre with questions and a different way of thinking of the Indigenous experience,” said Sappier.

For more information on purchasing tickets to attend the event in April, visit the SIFF website.