Sonya Ballantyne is at the forefront of Winnipeg’s new wave of Indigenous cinema. Through short films like Crash Site and Nosisim, Ballantyne has crafted deeply personal stories by interweaving on- and off-reserve Indigenous perspectives with science fiction, superhero narratives and other nerdy preoccupations.
Along with her sister Kerri, who doubles as Ballantyne’s roommate and occasional actor (Kerri played the sisters’ grandmother in Nosisim), Sonya grew up in the Misipawistik Cree Nation in Grand Rapids, Man. with dreams of moving to the city and making movies.
“I was originally planning a move to New York when I was 15 and heavily into The Ramones,” Sonya says. “But then I moved (to Winnipeg for university), because I wanted to be close to my family. My grandparents were sick, and I couldn’t live without seeing them often.”
Obviously, since Sonya has shared her downtown apartment with her sister for the past nine years, keeping close to family is still important.
“When we were little girls, I always told Kerri we were going to live together when we got older,” Sonya says. “Then when we got into fights as teenagers, we were like, ‘We’re never going to live together!’”
Family remains an important theme in Sonya’s work, including an upcoming documentary on Colten Pratt, a young man from Long Plain First Nation who went missing in 2014.
“I’m co-directing it with my creative partner Sage Forrester, who’s Colten’s cousin,” Ballantyne says. “The documentary focuses on Colten’s mother, who started the Necktie Campaign (to include men and boys in the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous people), and missing Indigenous men in general.”
Dad’s 25th anniversary certificate & Fridge memories
“Our dad brings us stuff like this. He’s like, ‘I know you guys want to honour me.’ We’re like, ‘Dad, we don’t need that, we know.’”
“We have us as babies, my dad with the Batmobile, our friends getting married, us at the escape room when we lost, our nephew, Kerri when she graduated.”
Japanese Amélie poster
“I really love Japanese movie posters. I’m trying to collect more, but it’s always hard. There’s one from The Cell I want, but can never find. I had a Seven Samurai poster, but it was damaged in a move.”
“We don’t decorate for Christmas until after Remembrance Day, but we keep him out all year.”
“This was made by our grandma, and we kept it forever. That’s why it’s covered in so much tape.”
Starry Night with Bat-Signal
“I remember when Kerri got this and it was beautiful, so I was like, ‘We need to put something else on there.’”
Drawings of Dad
“He brings us pictures he’s had drawn of him. Anything that doesn’t look like it’s ours is our dad’s. He gave us a boys’ children’s Bible a few weeks ago. It was like, ‘Why are you giving this to us?!’”
Claw machine toys
“Our dad runs and repairs a bunch of claw machines in the North, so he always gives us toys. We had to get rid of a bunch of them, but he kept bringing them over. We’re like, ‘Dad, we don’t have room for all these!’”
Published in Volume 72, Number 11 of The Uniter (November 23, 2017)