determiNATION songs

Directed by Michelle Smith and Paul Rickard  | Productions Multi-Monde | Documentary | 78 mins | 2009

In determiNATION songs three native artists use voice, rhythms, samples and guitar riffs to cut through big ‘P’ politics to reveal a vibrant native music scene while exposing the realities and struggles in their communities. As resistance grows across Indian country, this film about music, art and politics pulls aboriginal stories from the back pages and puts them squarely at the front of the stage.

Directed by Michelle Smith and Paul Rickards, determiNATION songs interweaves the stories of three talented native singer/songwriters – Samian, Cheri Maracle and CerAmony – through the artists’ creative process, inspiration, commitment and involvement with the resistance movements in their communities.

A rising star on the Quebec music scene, hip hop artist Samian raps in Algonquin about his personal struggles growing up, giving voice to a generation of dispossessed youth and obliging Quebecers to confront their historical relationship with First Nations.

Cheri Maracle, nominated for best female artist at the 2008 Aboriginal Music Awards, recently returned to her community of Six Nations. She sings about life on the rez and the struggle over unceded Mohawk land. She expresses what life is like for First Nations women, and pays homage to the thousands of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada.

Cree rockers Pakesso Mukash and Mathew Iserhoff, members of CerAmony, use Pak’s guitar and Mat’s powerful vocal style to voice the concerns of their people disenchanted with the destruction and sell off of Cree land to Hydro Quebec and big industry.

Growing up, many young Aboriginal artists experienced a loss of traditional culture and language. Music became a vehicle to reclaim native language and aspects of traditional culture that have been slowly eroding over centuries of colonial policy.

In the process, their work becomes a powerful source of strength, cultural renewal and political awareness for members of their community, particularly the youth, be it on or off reserve, in the city or in isolated settlements. For the broader public, these artists move people to dance, cry, think and act, all the while becoming more aware of the concerns facing First Nations peoples today while challenging their own perceptions of what it means to be Native.

The Directors

Michelle Smith has been producing and directing films since 1995. She has a particular interest in social, political and historical issues especially in relation to Aboriginal experience, cultural identity and intercultural relations. She has just completed three short docs for Mushkeg Media’s Aboriginal language series, Finding Our Talk. She has directed feature length docs (Turbulent Waters), docs for series (Bizart, 109, Culture Shock) and most recently the experimental doc Buried Traces exploring her Métis ancestry. She has produced several films with Productions Multi-Monde, including the animation,The Stray Dog (Le chien errant); documentaries Bledi: Notre pays est ici, When Strangers Reunite and A Time of Love and War (Lettres d’amour et de guerre). Her research experience includes both documentary series (Mother Tongue) and one-offs (Okanagan Dreams, Reel Injun). She has taught a number of workshops and classes on documentary filmmaking and has recently worked with Métis youth in Winnipeg to produce short videos looking at Métis identity and media representation. She is in the process of filming in Métis communities across Canada for an interactive DVD about Maternal and Child Health for the Métis Centre of the National Aboriginal Health Organization.

Paul M. Rickard is an Omuskego Cree from Moose Factory in Northern Ontario.   For the past ten years, he has been working as a producer, director and cameraman in collaboration with independent production companies and organizations such as Nutaaq Media Inc., Wildheart Productions, Wawatay, CBC North and the National Film Board of Canada. Now Paul is venturing into the area of independent production.

Paul studied radio and television production at the University of Western Ontario School of Journalism before joining Wawatay Native Communications Society as a television producer.  At Wawatay, he shot, edited and produced a bi-weekly public affairs television show for 4 years, as well as a weekly youth program, Video Awashishak.

In 1994, he went south to Montreal to train as a camera operator with the National Film Board of Canada.  In this capacity, Rickard did cinematography on several NFB documentary films for broadcast, including Multiple Choices  (Alison Burns), First Nation Blue (Dan Prouty), Fennario: His World on Stage  (Alex McLeod) and No Turning Back.  He worked on a number of other independent productions, and in 1996-96 was producer/director of the CBC North TV series Maamuitauui.

In 1996, he wrote, shot and directed his first film, entitled Ayouwin: A Way of Life. This documentary about Rickard’s father, a trapper in Moose Factory, Ontario, was produced by Wildheart Productions for broadcast on the TV Ontario Aboriginal series.  That same year, he directed Okimah at the National Film Board.  This film focuses on the knowledge handed down by Cree hunting leaders, the okimah, and stresses the importance of the annual goose hunt to the survival of traditional Cree culture.  Released in 35 mm, it premiered at the Vancouver Film Festival in 1998.  That same year, the film went on to win the Best of the Fest award at the Yellowknife Far North Film Festival.

Okimah was broadcast on VISION TV in January 1999 and also recently screened at the Rendez-vous du Cinéma Québécois in Montreal. In1999, he directed and co-produced Finding My Talk: A Journey into Aborginal Languages, the pilot for the 13 part series entitled; Finding Our Talk, for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. The second season of FOT began in January 2003 on APTN with a second window on SCN beginning in June 2004.

In 2004, Paul was one of the executive producers for From Cherry English, a short dramatic film directed by Jeffrey Barnaby and produced by Nutaaq Media Inc. for CBC Zed.  He recently completed his first feature length documentary Aboriginal Architecture – Living Architecture, a co-production between his company Mushkeg Productions and the National Film Board of Canada.  In 2005, Paul wrote, directed and produced his first dramatic short film entitled The Winter Chill based on a traditional Cree story told by his father.  The film stars Aboriginal actors, Dakota House and Glen Gould, and made its world premiere at the 2005 ImagineNative + Media Arts Festival in Toronto this fall.  As well it was nominated as Best Live Short at the 2006 American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco.  Paul also produced and co-directed with Tracey Deer Kanien’keha:ka – Living the Language about the Mohawk language immersion program at the Akwesasne Freedom School.  Paul is currently working on the documentary series Finding Our Talk 3 about the state of indigenous languages around the world for APTN and Maori TV in New Zealand.

Paul currently runs the Weeneebeg Aboriginal Film & Video Festival in Moose Factory as Executive Director.  The festival began in 2003 as a community based event to promote media arts and filmmaking as a viable career to young people though various screenings and workshops presented at the festival.


Watch the trailer:


2 responses

  1. Pingback: Filmmakers from around the world to attend AGITPROP Film Festival opening « International Film Festival on Peoples' Struggles

  2. Pingback: Filmmakers from around the world to attend AGITPROP Film Festival opening | UPLB ZOOM OUT Multimedia Collective

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