________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 18 . . . . April 27, 2007


First Stories: Volume 1.

Ervin Chartrand (Writer & Director). Joe MacDonald (Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2006.
67 min., VHS or DVD, $99.95.
Order Number: 153C 9106 213.

Subject Headings:
Documentary films-Canada.
Indians of North America-Social life and customs.

Grades 8 and up / Ages 13 and up.

Review by Gail de Vos.

**** /4

excerpt (paraphrased from the film):

When I was young, I remember my teacher showing me a red apple. She said that Indians were like an apple, red on the outside and white on the inside. That is what made us alright.  (From “Apples & Indians”).

Four Aboriginal filmmakers from Manitoba explore their identity as an Aboriginal person in contemporary Canadian society. The DVD also includes a behind-the scenes feature which explains the rationale and inspiration for the series of short documentaries which will hopefully follow this one, optimistically entitled Volume 1. Each documentary averages about 5 minutes. The DVD won the Silver World Medal for Cultural Issues at the New York Festival Competition, February 2, 2007.

     Writer and director Ervin Chartrand captured the thoughts of painter Patrick Ross, in a film by the same name, as he contemplated his future. In this very spare and compelling film, the viewer watches Ross’s evocative and spiritual painting come to life as he contemplates his life as a former prison inmate and his ongoing personal search for identity.

     “Apples & Indians” is a quirky and humorous look by filmmaker Lorne Olsen at the labels he has been given throughout his lifetime. These labels reflect the social mores of contemporary society: half-breed, Métis, Oji-Cree, Indian, Native, Aboriginal and starting it all, Apple. A quick paced ride through the annals of political correct terminology and identity.

     Darryl Nepinak’s film, “My Indian Name,” looks at how his traditional culture continues to shape him and his people in his search for understanding the importance of receiving an Indian name. We listen as elders, as well as others, explain the importance of earning an Indian name, and we watch with pleasure as Darryl and his sister discuss the importance of their newly given names, the meanings behind them and the colours associated with them.

     The final film, “Nganawendaanan Nde’ing” (I keep them in My Heart) follows filmmaker Shannon Letandre from the city, where she now makes her home, back to the home of her childhood. The film follows her and her grandfather through the marshes as they gather roots and prepare the roots for use as traditional medicines and infusions. Shannon successfully demonstrates the bustle of city life and contrasts it with the quiet and peaceful countryside of her people.

Highly Recommended.

Gail de Vos teaches at the School of Library and Information Studies for the University of Alberta and is the author of six books on storytelling and folklore.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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