Wapikoni Cinema on Wheels hits the road in Vancouver, showcasing young, indigenous storytellers

Basket maker Stephen Jerome at work in My Father's Tool, the short film from Heather Condo that is part of the Wapikoni Cinema on Wheels tour.

There’s no talking in Heather Condo’s short film My Father’s Tools, but its message comes through loud and clear: tradition is important and skills should be preserved.

The skills here are those of master basket maker Stephen Jerome.

From actual tree selection to the final touches, the six-and-a-half minute film shows the Micmac man (Condo’s partner’s father) complete a basket in his workshop on the Gaesgapegiag First Nations reserve on the south shore of the Gaspésie.

There is an ancient rhythm to what Jerome does. Watching him run his hands over a rough log looking for knots and then carefully stripping off wafer-thin pieces of wood is fascinating and fully engrossing.

“They like that there is nothing that takes away from his action of making the basket and that’s what I wanted,” Condo says of reactions from her community about the film’s lack of talk.

The film, which has also screened at the Sundance Film Festival, is one of 14 short films that will be highlighted in the

Wapikoni Cinema on Wheels

project that hits the nationwide road starting here in Vancouver on April 23.

“I feel it showed me what an artist I can be and there’s so much support involved from their end,” Condo says of the Wapikoni program. “I went to them with my idea and they helped me tell a story that was very important to me and my family.”

To celebrate the tour’s launch, the Vancouver International Film Centre, which houses the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF), is screening a special selection of films made by young, indigenous filmmakers.

“It’s very important for different audiences, diverse audiences to experience these films,” says Curtis Woloschuk, associate director of programming at VIFF. “That’s we are hoping to help them with the screening here.”

 Basket maker Stephen Jerome at work in My Father’s Tool, a six-and-a-half minute film that shows the Micmac man (filmmaker Heather Condo’s partner’s father) completing a basket in his workshop on the Gaesgapegiag First Nations reserve on the south shore of the Gaspésie.

Woloschuk says these films get the nod, first and foremost, due to their quality.

“Some of them have played Sundance, some our festival, TIFF and Nouveau Cinema in Montreal. These are films of an extremely high calibre and it’s an opportunity to see the next wave of great Canadian indigenous storytellers.”

The Wapikoni Cinema on Wheels tour has grown out of Wapikoni From Coast to Coast: Reconciliation Through the Media Arts program (UNESCO and Canadian government supported). For the past 14 years, that program has visited indigenous communities and offered guidance, training and complete mobile audio-visual studios. To date, 970 short films have been completed and many of those have won awards.

“The Wapikoni Project is meant to enhance the voice of First Nations. Put the materials to make films in the hands of youth and make it accessible,” says Christian Morissette, head of distribution for Wapikoni Cinema on Wheels Tour.

 A scene from the short film Where The River Widens, ‘inspired by the friendship and the work of fishermen.’ It’s part of the Wapikoni Cinema on Wheels tour.

It is also set up to support each filmmaker’s own, unique voice. There is no editorial line he or she must straddle.

“It’s their stories. It’s things that are important to them and things that are important in their lives, and it’s important to show that and for people to know what is going on,” says Condo. “And most of the time the films are focused on the positive elements of our culture and to me that’s when we shine. We shine in the arts and we shine in showing our history and sharing our story.”

This new mobile film festival is really a chance to connect communities through visual art and to reach out to a wider and non-Indigenous audience.

How the tour works is for the next eight months a special truck/caravan has been kitted out to become a pop-up theatre. There is a large, expandable screen complete with outdoor seating on one side. On the other is a TV monitor and a covered area to accommodate showings even if the weather turns bad. The tour can also set up in local theatre spaces if they are available.

 Nick Rodgers’ short film The Guest: ‘A trapper collects a strange wounded animal in the forest. However, the animal quickly turns out to be insatiable.’ It’s one of 14 short films in the Wapikoni Cinema on Wheels tour that will be moving around the country.

They have three programs on the tour — a general public program and two youth programs for 8-12 and 13-teens. There will be special guests and Q&A sessions.

The touring Wapikoni festival will be making stops all over the province, including returning to Vancouver on May 5 as part of the

DOXA documentary film festival


To find out more about the films and filmmakers and to see if the tour is coming near you, check out the website



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