With the goal of better representation in media, this college is launching an Indigenous cinema program

A new college program hopes to play an active role in the emergence of the next generation of Indigenous filmmakers and creators.

Kiuna College, which is located in the Abenaki community of Odanak, Que., near Trois-Rivières, is launching a new Indigenous cinema program this fall. It’s a two-year pre-university program in partnership with non-profit organization Wapikoni Mobile.

“We are working to train the future generation of Indigenous leaders,” said Prudence Hannis, associate director of the college.

“Our institutions share the same values. We both work with Indigenous youth, and what we want to provide to our students is a means to get a diploma and allow them to become the next generation of creators.”

Kiuna, founded by the First Nations Education Council in 2011, is the only First Nations post-secondary institution in Quebec that offers a provincial diploma in either First Nations Social Science or First Nations Arts, Literature and Communication.

Focusing on works by and for Indigenous people

The new program falls under the latter, providing students with an introduction to the world of the cinema, screenwriting, directing, animation, documentary film, and hands-on production skills.

Paul Grant, a teacher at Kiuna, said they will primarily focus on works “not about but by and for Indigenous” people.

“The program depends on community. It takes very seriously questions of self-representation and working to correct the history of Indigenous Peoples and cultures in films,” said Grant.

Prudence Hannis and Paul Grant from Kiuna in Odanak, Que. (Submitted by Kiuna)

One of the most important elements, he said, will be the ethics of filming within the context of Indigenous cultures, histories, and perspectives.

“We open the program with a course called the esthetics and language of film and the student is introduced to the world of cinema,” said Grant.

“It’s one of the few classes where they won’t be given just Indigenous media, it will show how Indigenous communities have been [represented] and even exploited by the histories of cinema.”

By the time students are finished with this program, Grant said they can either continue to university or move directly into working in the industry.

“It is something that is so needed in our industry,” said Odile Joannette, Wapikoni Mobile executive director.

The non-profit organization operates fully equipped mobile studios that travel thousands of kilometres each year, visiting communities across the country to bring film and musical recording workshops to Indigenous youth since 2004.

“Our creators are talented; they will have access to training that is so aligned with our values, our way of seeing life, and our contribution to the world we want for our children, grandchildren and the generations to come,” said Joanette.

“We believe in narrative sovereignty at the basis of our practice. It’s really important that pieces and creations be created by our creators.”

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