A coming-of-age in the Indigenous Renaissance

Colour of Scar Tissue recently premiered at the imagiNATIVE Film & Media Arts Festival

According to Polaris Prize-winning musicologist Jeremy Dutcher, the Canadian arts scene is in the midst of an “Indigenous Renaissance.”

Within this sphere are Winnipeg filmmakers Madison Thomas and Darcy Waite. After winning the imagiNATIVE web series pitch competition, the director/producer duo set forth in creating Colour of Scar Tissue, a four-part series that was released on APTN’s YouTube channel on Oct. 19.

The series is centred around the lives of three mixed Indigenous sisters who move from rural Manitoba to Winnipeg’s North End following the death of their parents. The story explores their transition into the new neighbourhood and the unforeseen relationships that are fostered in the process.

“We’re still telling universal coming-of-age stories, but with something that’s resonating a little differently,” Thomas says.

Though a work of fiction, the experiences chronicled in the series hit home for Thomas, who grew up in the North End herself. Like the characters, both Thomas and Waite come from mixed white/Indigenous backgrounds. Thomas’ roots are Ojibwe/Saulteaux, while Waite is Cree.

“We weren’t trying to tell a story that wasn’t ours,” Thomas explains. “Darcy and I are both mixed-race Indigenous peoples.”

Thomas graduated from the University of Winnipeg in 2012 with a degree in film, but her training extends beyond a local context. In 2011, she had the opportunity to attend the Prague Film School summer intensive. Since then, she has worked with Eagle Vision productions as an editor and director for the CBC series Taken and is part of the Women in the Director’s Chair program, which she deems the “coolest cult (she’s) a part of.”

Waite came to Winnipeg after hearing it was a hub for Indigenous filmmakers. Starting out as an actor, he transitioned to a career behind the camera following a move from Alberta to the Manitoban prairies, where he trained with the National Screen Institute.

The rise of Indigenous film at a national level – one that has been unofficially defined as the “rebirth” or Renaissance of Indigenous arts – is something the two emphasize.

“There’s such a big push for diversity right now, and what we’re seeing is people who didn’t get opportunities have these opportunities they never had before,” Waite says.

Thomas notes that much of the Indigenous film realm has been centered around “sad/sob stories” but hopes that this surge will shed light on the vibrant independent and documentary scene that prevails.

After months spent in production mode, Thomas says that the most rewarding aspect of releasing the film to the public has been the feedback and emotional responses generously received from viewers.

“Most of the people’s reactions that I was very surprised with were not from Indigenous peoples, but from POC and other minorities,” Thomas reflects. “It’s interesting to see that when you’re working from such an intimate perspective that it would be so universal. We all just go through different variations of the same experience.”

Colour of Scar Tissue is out now as a four-part web series on APTN’s YouTube channel.

Published in Volume 73, Number 9 of The Uniter (November 8, 2018)

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