Last night I was on the Stoney Nation Reserve, premiering A New Warrior for Hope to an audience of 50 community members. The film follows Weddu (portrayed by Gage Beaver, pictured above) as he struggles with drugs, bullying and a persistent Elder (Sykes Powderface, above) who is trying to steer him down a better path. All of the performers and crew on the film were community members and none (with the exception of the talented Mr. Powderface) had any professional training or experience with acting. Despite this, we managed to work together and create a thoughtful, realistic exploration of the challenges facing many of the youth in Stoney Nation.
The project took one year, from inception to final cut. I was invited to the community by Cathy Arcega, who runs the Bearspaw Youth Centre. Elders and community leaders had become concerned about the path that their community’s youth were on. Gang affiliation, graffiti, violence and suicide are on the rise in this community, which lies in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, just west of Calgary, Alberta. This film is a hopeful intervention.
The process involved sitting down with youth from the community to hear their stories. We spent two days in the Bearspaw Youth Centre writing notes on a giant scroll of brown paper, drinking coffee and tea, laughing, reflecting and sharing. Gang intervention worker Mike Gladue, who himself had first-hand experience with the subject at hand, was there to help ensure the story was realistic and true to the situation facing many youth on reserves in Canada. We took real events from their lives and wrapped them into a narrative about a teenage Stoney boy who is struggling to walk a good path. Their honesty and openness to this creative process was heartening.
What, for me, is the end of a year-long project will hopefully be the beginning of a community conversation around gangs, drugs and tradition in Stoney Nation. I am thankful and grateful to the community for inviting me and for allowing me to share their stories. A number of people last night were interested in exploring more stories in the community through film — I sincerely hope that they do.
To the community, I would like to say a humble dohã pina mac. It was truly an honour and a privilege.
Note: The film will be made available to communities and educators free of charge. Because we are submitting the film to festivals, we cannot post it online at this time. If you are interested in acquiring a DVD copy, please contact Cathy Arcega at the Bearspaw Youth Centre in Morley, AB (firstname.lastname@example.org). The film is free, but if people feel inclined to make a donation to the youth centre they are welcome to do so.
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