________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 13. . . .February 20, 2009.


First Stories: Volume III.

Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2007.
40 min., 13 sec., DVD, $99.95.
Order Number: 153C 9107 306.

Subject Heading:
Indians of North America-Social life and customs.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.

Review by Frank Loreto.





     First Stories: Volume III is a collection of four short films told by Aboriginal filmmakers. The films do not have any connection with each other except that they all deal with Aboriginal content.

     The first film, "Walking Alone," by Gerald Auger, tells the story of Shawn Bernard, an Aboriginal rap artist who founded the largest Native gang in Canada. His lifestyle put him at odds with the police, and he was ultimately arrested. This happening, he states, was an inevitability. If it was not the police, he knew some rival gang would get him. While he was in prison, his sister died, and this event turns his life around. Now free, he is back in the rap business and has left the gang ways behind him. His mission now is to save his and other children's lives.

     Next is "Two Spirited" by Sharon Desjarlais. This film features a male jangle dancer who, rather than admit his two-spirited nature, entered a jangle dance as a woman. Once found out, he lost his championship prize. He tells how a misguided elder humiliated him and did not understand his two-spiritedness. His grandmother explains that, in pre-contact days, two-spirited people were seen "as a blessing" and were prized by the tribe. Work needs to be done in the re-acceptance of the two-spirited members of the community. The dancer vows to continue with the jangle dancing and knows that time is needed for full acceptance.

     The drum is the focus of Duane Linklater's film, "His Guidance." The power of the drum and the reverence with which it is cared for is clear in this film. The main character explains how he was drawn to the sound of the drum initially out of boredom and curiosity. However, in the presence of its power and the community aspect of playing the drum with others, he became taken: "the sound of the drum gives a sense of belonging." So now he is responsible for the care of the drum, and he is proud of this honour.

     The last film, "Hooked Up: NDNs Online," looks at the online native communities that can be reached anywhere in the world. Aboriginals always used to connect and network in the past, and this connectedness can still be done using the computer. The film follows the main character as she looks for people online. She discovers a large "NDN" community and laughs when her best selection turns out to be an old friend. The potential for this connectivity is boundless.

     First Stories: Volume III shows the range of issues that can be presented within the Aboriginal communities. As a non-Native viewer, I found myself wanting to know more about the Native rap scene in Canada and Native gangs. The traditional view of two-spiritedness is intriguing, and much more can be said. This is true of the tradition of the jangle dance. That could be a film in itself. The discussion of the drum, common to most cultures in the world, could be expanded as well.

     Each of the films leaves the viewer hungry for more. However, the filmmakers were restricted as these films were competition finalists. Perhaps longer, more detailed versions of these films will be made sometime down the road. In the meantime, First Stories: Volume III highlights the work of talented new filmmakers who will no doubt, be heard from again. Included with the films are interviews with the filmmakers where they answer a number of questions about their work.

     First Stories: Volume III would play to a limited audience. It certainly would have applicability in any Film or Media course, but the shortness of the films does not allow for a full treatment of the topic presented. While there is a wide range of topics presented, the collection lacks depth.

Recommended with reservations.

Frank Loreto is a teacher-librarian at St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School in Brampton, ON.

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

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