Welcome, visitor!   Register   Login

Post an Ad
Menu Post an Ad

2016 Salt Spring Film Festival: Elder in the Making

    Art & Design, Film Festival, Food & Entertainment    February 2, 2016

The following article was written by Robert McTavish as part of a series of articles about filmmakers coming to the Salt Spring Film Festival on March 4-6, 2016.

Filmmaker Chris Hsiung and film subject Cowboy Smithx will be attending the festival and leading a discussion about the film.

Elder in the Making

Filmmaker Chris Hsiung walked away from a career as a successful software engineer seeking a deeper connection with the world around him. He soon found that, for him, film became one way to make that connection, and the camera “was an interesting tool to share stories people can’t experience on their own.” But when he finished his first feature documentary, about a consciousness-raising road trip with a young Blackfoot “elder in the making,” would the experience translate on screen?

Hsiung’s parents, emigrants from Taiwan, supplied his answer. As cultural newcomers to urban Alberta, they had no previous contact with the rural indigenous peoples and were now thrilled because in their son’s new medium “here they could actually relate, and that really speaks to the positive.”

Much of this shared consciousness is thanks to Cowboy Smithx, the soulful young Blackfoot artist and performer who befriended Hsiung and fit the bill as an open and thoughtful guide into Blackfoot life ancient and modern. On first glance the wry Smithx and earnest Hsiung may seem an unlikely duo to re-examine aboriginal history and culture, but the result is a gorgeous and informative documentary journey deep into the sun-baked heart of traditional Blackfoot territory. Both are eager to see how the film will play outside of Alberta, where audiences have proven hungry for this mostly unexamined history. Their opportunity is coming as they will screen the film in person at the Salt Spring Film Festival.

As a first generation Chinese Canadian, Hsiung certainly knew what it meant to be outside mainstream culture, but the little he knew about the First Nations and their lands was from brief school lessons “which didn’t seem much.” In his mind “before, I saw Alberta only as a new province in 1905 – that frontier idea of a creation.” Smithx was well aware of the Blackfoot’s long history, with added expertise from being in a theatre group addressing the First Nations’ perspective on Treaty 7 – the treaty that effectively ceded the rights to their traditional lands in 1877. Yet he too had much to learn.

“A piece of the picture is missing,” says Hsiung, who made certain to cover as much of the dusty ground as possible. That meant serious archival research, so much that “maybe five per cent makes it into the film.” From the coming of the Europeans and the loss of the buffalo, all the way through residential schools to the modern day, the film is a treasure trove of Blackfoot culture. Hsiung took great caution to experience it all first-hand, as their road-tripping keeps their feet firmly on the ground and within context. This meant stops at reserves, rodeos, and various sacred prairie spots where history, culture and spirit blend into one. The travel was necessary because with history often being an interpretive action, the facts behind it need clarification. Or as Hsiung says: “let’s not hide the context!”

Who better to provide context for a film about the passing on of traditions than respected Blackfoot elders, who pass on knowledge forged in experience. But with experience often comes pain, and Hsiung was devastated to find that he would feel the appreciation of elder sharing “the most when the process was cut.” While he was editing the film, a car accident killed four people from the project, and one in particular, Narcisse Blood, who was building future plans with his new students. “I was only beginning to learn,” says Hsiung. “There was so much more on the path.” Their road trip at an end, the two documentarians now aim to spread the message of the elders and hope that the cross-cultural conversations only grow and deepen.

The Filmmaker series is sponsored by Stonehouse Bed and Breakfast.
Salt Spring - Stone House Bed and Breakfast Logo

Comments May Not Be Seen by the Author

No Tags


Post an Event

Community News

  • Island Pathways Receives $18,500

    by on 7 hours ago

    Last Wednesday evening, 100+ Women Who Care Salt Spring Island gathered in the ArtSpring theatre for its third meeting. And something interesting happened… One of the three charities randomly drawn during the meeting, from the 18 that had been nominated, had been drawn before but hadn’t been voted to receive the funds. Back into the […]

  • Winter Cabbage, Irrigation Tips, Beet Le...

    by on May 20, 2019

    From now on, continue to be alert for heat waves and be prepared to shade seedbeds and seedlings and to mulch plants to cool the soil. The heat wave earlier this month resulted in injury to unprotected seedlings that is showing up now. Heat injury appears as white or biscuit coloured patches on leaves; whole […]

  • Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue Respond t...

    by on May 17, 2019

    Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue responded to an early morning structure fire in the 100 blk of Thomas Road. The initial call came in at 04:37 and crews completed the scene at 08:00. 25 Firefighters responded with 19 on scene; 4 fire trucks and 3 support vehicles along with BC Ambulance and BC Hydro. On […]

  • $1.5 Million Approved for First Stage of...

    by on May 16, 2019

    The Lady Minto Hospital Foundation has approved $1.5 million in initial funding for the proposed Lady Minto Hospital Emergency Department expansion and redevelopment project. Members of the Hospital Foundation voted at a special general meeting May 16, 2019 to fund the proposed project’s schematic design and design development stages, “This is an important step forward […]

  • Increasing Cost of Fuel Leads BC Ferries...

    by on May 16, 2019

    BC Ferries is advising customers that due to current fuel market conditions, the company will implement a fuel surcharge of 1.5 per cent on June 1. BC Ferries closely monitors the cost of fuel and applies a rebate or surcharge, or neither, under a regulatory process that is independent of fares. Here is an example […]

  • Growing Community Concern about Legion R...

    by on May 15, 2019

    A week before the April 30th Salt Spring Local Trust Committee meeting, islanders learned that a 144-foot tall Capital Region Emergency Service Telecommunications (CREST) radio tower was in the final stages of approval for construction at the Legion in Ganges, and that 4G and eventually 5G cellular antennas would likely be added to this tower. […]

  • Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne visits Salt S...

    by on May 15, 2019

    If you’ve been to Tofino in the last couple of years you will know that it’s a cool place. Not only are the beaches and the surfing and the mountains excellent, but the community looks to be thriving. Local government clearly has done well, not only in fostering a strong economy, but also at preserving […]

  • History of the Salt Spring Island Golf C...

    by on May 14, 2019

    March 23, 1928, saw a public meeting at Mahon Hall. Thirty-three people attended with the intention of forming a golf club. With W.E. Scott in the chair, K. Butterfield undertook secretarial duties. It was announced that a committee which had been appointed by the Salt Spring Island Development Association had been exceedingly busy. ‘Barnsbury’, the […]

  • Extensive Vandalism to Local CRD Office ...

    by on May 12, 2019

    In the morning of May 12, 2019 the Salt Spring RCMP were notified that a number of the street-front windows in Ganges, including the CRD office on McPhillips Ave had been smashed.  Police attended and their investigation is ongoing.  No entry was gained to the office, and efforts are underway to repair the damage prior […]

Pin It on Pinterest