The Decolonizing Lens is a monthly film series featuring the work and words of Indigenous filmmakers in hopes of creating a space for their voices.
Jocelyn Thorpe, a women and gender studies professor at the University of Manitoba, and Kaila Johnston of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation wanted to continue the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s open discussion about the Indigenous experience in Canada.
Thorpe says inspiration for The Decolonizing Lens came from a student’s insight into the commission’s public inquiries.
They saw the importance of continuing the conversation of Indigenous experiences but wanted Indigenous people to lead the dialogue themselves.
Through these inquiries, Thorpe says education and empowering youth were revealed to be key factors in creating change.
“Let young people lead what’s happening,” Thorpe says.
She felt there was a lack of Indig-enous voices in the space for truth and reconciliation.
Thorpe and Johnson wanted to continue this discussion on Indigenous issues while emphasizing the importance of Indigenous experiences being heard firsthand.
The idea of screening films emerged as The Decolonizing Lens, which Thorpe saw as an opportunity to harness Winnipeg.
Through the series, Thorpe seeks to merge Indigenous film with Indigenous experiences while opening up constructive conversation.
Thorpe says he hopes this series will respond to stereotypes and give Indigenous voices a chance to be heard.
The selections chosen by Johnston and Thorpe are thought-provoking, and audiences are encouraged to have an open discussion following the screening.
Screenings are free, as the event aims to be accessible to all.
To a packed theatre, the September screening brought in Reel Injun by filmmaker Neil Diamond and the short film Assini by Gail Maurice at Cinematheque.
Reel Injun depicted the role of the stereotypical ‘Indian’ in Hollywood films, while Assini followed the story of a seven-year-old Indigenous girl discovering her identity.
Discussion followed with Sharon Dainard, a Native studies master’s student at the University of Manitoba.
With both films emphasizing the importance of reclaiming identify, Dainard says she saw the link between that and featuring films from an Indigenous perspective.
“We as Indigenous people must reclaim our lives and stories,” she says.
She says she believes in the importance of providing space for Indigenous film.
“(It) shows our stories, and in that way we decolonize.”
The next series takes place on Oct. 5 and will feature This River, a film by Katherena Vermette and the National Film Board.
The Winnipeg Art Gallery will host the event. Members of the Bear Clan Patrol and Drag the Red will be present and will take part in an open discussion following the screening.
People are encouraged to come to the events with an open mind and heart.
Published in Volume 71, Number 4 of The Uniter (September 29, 2016)