Return of the fireflies

Cruising on a bike (See This Spirit Bike), dancing to the lively airs of the Métis fiddle (Hands to the Sky) or gliding on the enchanted exhalations of dream (Four Faces of the Moon; Johogoi Aiyy), the Indigenous soul impetuously seeks anchorage in the present time where it is most needed as the Earth grows poorer at headlong speed through deforestation (Frères des arbres, l’appel d’un chef papou), targeting peoples (A Time To Swim) while the law of profit for the benefit of the few has become a universal rule.

Feeling the coming spirit, some knock on doors of shamans, who offer them something other than the cure-all they are so desperate for (Icaros: A Vision). And out of chance encounters, the spark of friendship reverberates in the air like a glow that never fades (Kuun metsän Kaisa; GuarInnu).

Elsewhere spirit rubs up against reality, in spaces still preserved from the destructive urges of the mad machine, when one dwells on the beauty of the land (Eshe Menuateman), on dancing fish (El Camino es Largo), or growing flowers (Ma connexion), or the magic of the seasons (Inuk Hunter). While a voice is raised to sing of the sacred, immemorial threads unite humans and the universe (Mikwetc), while the ancient arts come back to life in a new guise (Journeys to Adāka; Pūtahi Kotahitanga).

Voices and glances, sometimes still hesitant in their first steps, get stronger and louder as the wind rises, embracing ambitious forms: contemporary feature films (The Land of Rock and Gold; Redfern Now: Promise Me), a historical saga (Martírio), a different take on a Hollywood classic (Maliglutit) or a look back on the history of modern art (Casualties of Modernity).

A movement gaining recognition through the world: a special “Indigenous Cinema” section at the Berlinale, Zacharias Kunuk chosen for the Academy, a documentary award at Sundance by a Montreal company (Rezolution Pictures for Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World), and a residency at Cannes for Anishnabe director Caroline Monnet, who this year presented both a short (Creatura Dada, nominated for an APTN award) and a mural video piece at place du Makusham (AKA place des Festivals). And already 10 years since the adoption of the UN declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples, celebrated at the 11th edition of Courts critiques as our closing event.

And of course, there are still struggles that must be told (awaited in Montreal, José Luis Mattias, the Nahua director of El Mineral o la Vida), and the worries of youth still uncertain about their future (Lumières sur l’eau). But beneath the motions of humble everyday life, we can feel that things are changing (Indian Time). First Peoples sovereignty takes the form of new practices (Tribal Justice). Seismic tremors are shaking the ground, and, in a still incomplete prophetic film (Hochelaga, Terres des Âmes), reconciliation with the past becomes a springboard towards a better future (director François Girard will speak to us about his encounter with the Indigenous world during filming) and a future where all our diversities are recognized (Respecter la roue; Two Soft Things, Two Hard Things).

A teen sums up all these contradictions: as he finds his way, he flings open the luminous road to hope (Zach’s Ceremony), a road where artists have been and remain the most reliable guides (Creatura Dada; I’ll Remember You As You Were, Not As What You’ll Become).

Montréal First Peoples Festival 2017: the fireflies light the path ahead of us.