By Alice Neeson
For over ten years, Wapikoni Mobile has been working with Aboriginal youth in Canada to encourage expression through music and film. Their mobile studios, sometimes referred to as “youth centres on wheels”, have travelled to some of the most remote First Nations communities in the country, providing workshops and mentoring to young participants.
Earlier this year, when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its final report, it put forward 94 Calls to Action. One of these dealt with Media and Reconciliation. It highlighted the importance of media coverage on issues of concern to Aboriginal people, adequate representation of Aboriginal people in the media, and the accommodation of diverse cultures, languages and perspectives. These are just some of the issues which Wapikoni has been working to address since 2004.
Not only does media training help to break the sense of isolation often experienced by young people in remote communities, but it also provides the tools they need to express themselves. In this way, film and music can act as powerful tools for social transformation in communities with high rates of suicide, violence and substance abuse. Working with Wapikoni helps young people to build their self-esteem and sense of self-belief, as well as pride in their communities, culture and identity.
The films produced with Wapikoni have their first screening within the community they were made, and often address topics specific to members of that community. Many films go on to be screened more widely, often for non-Aboriginal and international audiences. This can help to challenge prejudices, misconceptions and racism, and can help to build bridges and encourage positive cultural exchange between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. It also helps to broadcast the issues that matter to communities that seldom reach the mainstream media.
Having gained a highly technical skillset and real world experience of filming and editing, young filmmakers with Wapikoni are in an excellent position to pursue professional careers in the media industry. Increased employment opportunities can encourage financial empowerment and autonomy.
To date, Wapikoni have trained more than 3,500 young men and women in 29 communities, producing more than 850 films which help to document the diversity of First Nations cultural heritage. They have also worked with young filmmakers internationally, in Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Panama and Finland.
Reconciliation Canada are delighted to be hosting a series of six short films on the theme of reconciliation, produced by young Indigenous filmmakers with the help of Wapikoni Mobile. We will share a new video each week, so check back often for the latest videos!
The first video of this film series: The Joy of Living – Filmmaker: Jérémy Vassiliou
The views and opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and may not reflect the views and opinions of Reconciliation Canada.