The South Western International Film Festival (SWIFF) is reaching out to young residents of Lambton County’s three First Nations with a series of free Indigenous filmmaking workshops.
The first – planned for July 19 and July 20 – will be led by filmmaker Thirza Cuthand at the Maawn Doosh Gumig Community Centre at the Aamjiwnaang First Nation.
There’s space for 10 to 12 young people at the two-day hands-on workshop .
The annual Sarnia film festival was founded five years ago by Ravi Srinivasan, who grew up in the community and went on to a career with the Toronto International Film Festival.
Along with showing films at the Imperial Theatre in downtown Sarnia, the annual fall festival features live music and workshops for young people interested in filmmaking.
“We realized we weren’t getting Indigenous youth to sign up,” Srinivasan said.
The idea for the workshops came while he was talking with Candace Scott-Moore, a member of the festival board who is from Kettle and Stony Point First Nation, about how to better serve Indigenous youth.
With grants from Lambton’s Creative County Fund, and support from sponsors Nova Chemicals and Carpenters Union Local 1256, the festival will offer workshops in each of the local First Nation communities this summer.
Dates are still to be set for workshops at Walpole Island, and Kettle and Stony Point.
Because of the current social and political climate in Canada, and with the reconciliation efforts being made, “this is a great time for Indigenous folks to be telling stories,” Srinivasan said.
“We think it’s important for SWIFF – for Sarnia – to provide a pathway for young people who want to tell their story … and change the makeup of the stories being told.”
The workshops will each be led by an Indigenous filmmaker and be available to youth ages 13 to 19.
A number of Indigenous filmmakers have been coming forward in Canada in recent years, such as Jeff Barnaby and Ell-Maija Tailfeathers, who had a film premiere at the Berlin Film Festival, he said.
“There’s a lot of great stories that are coming out in the last four or five years, and we want to be one of those organizations fostering and facilitating those storytellers who often don’t get the platform and the opportunity.”
Srinivasan said he wanted to be a filmmaker while growing up in Sarnia, but there weren’t many opportunities to learn about the art form.
So when he launched the festival, Srinivasan said he wanted to also offer workshops to “foster and cultivate students who have an interest and passion for this kind of work.”
Information about the Indigenous filmmaking workshops, and how to sign up, can be found on the SWIFF website, www.swiff.ca.
This year’s film festival is set to run Nov. 7 to Nov. 10 in Sarnia.