THE MIKINAWK-TORTUE COMMITTEE
We program short films from around the world, and each one explores unique political and cultural realities. Thanks to the filmmakers and their films, multiple voices resonate in our programming. As a cultural organization with an international profile, it is important to us to do more to highlight issues that are closer to home – specifically the realities of Indigenous communities that have made the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region their home since time immemorial.
In the fall of 2021, we reached out to la Boîte Rouge VIF, an Indigenous non-profit whose mission is to preserve, transmit and publicize cultural legacies. The idea was to invite the entire REGARD team to a two-part training session: first, an overview of the history and current situation of Indigenous communities here and elsewhere in Quebec, followed by an exploration of specific actions we can take to become a more inclusive and culturally safe event.
The result was the formation of the Mikinawk-Tortue Committee. The name comes from the expression “slowly but surely”: it will take time for things to change for the better, but we are committed to being part of the process, one step at a time. Because the turtle represents the creation of the world in some Indigenous cultures, the symbolism seemed particularly apt. Mikinawk means “turtle” in Atikamekw, the language spoken by one of the nations whose territory we live on.
This new committee, made up of people from various departments within the organization, has the mission of developing actions and communications aimed at promoting discussion and raising the profile of Indigenous communities in future editions of the festival.
*The banner image on this page is a work by artist Eruoma Awashish
Each year, the entire festival team attends training to raise awareness and think about improving cultural safety for First Nations during the festival.
In 2022, la Boîte Rouge VIF, an Indigenous organization involved in creating and presenting multidisciplinary and multicultural productions in Saguenay, came to meet our team.
In 2022 and 2023, the Uashashkutuan organization led team training sessions on cultural safety.
• We exhibited an artwork by Amélie Courtois, an Indigenous multidisciplinary artist , in the ruelle du court-métrage (short-film alley), a public space next to our offices. On March 24, 2022, the piece, titled “Je suis une survivante du pensionat” (I am a residential school survivor) was officially unveiled.
• In 2023, we invited Présence autochtone, Quebec’s largest event dedicated to Indigenous cinema, to present a Carte Blanche program of shorts by Indigenous filmmakers from here and abroad during the Regard Festival. Programmed by André Dudemaine, the artistic director of the First Peoples’ Festival, the selection highlights key figures in recent Indigenous cinema. The First Peoples’ Festival is a multidisciplinary event that, for ten days, makes Montreal the cultural and artistic hub for Indigenous peoples throughout the Americas.
• In 2023, working in close collaboration with Jess Murwin, the festival’s programming team developed a project called Forming our Circle - Créons un tout - Pitshitshipanu. This long-term effort is aimed at improving our relationships with Indigenous filmmakers and creating new opportunities in the arts and culture. It is the result of our sincere desire to help communities – Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike – thrive and support each other in the Saguenay region and beyond.
The circle is a symbol rich in meaning for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultures. It evokes ideas such as equality, community and the passage of time. This project’s trilingual name is aimed at reflecting these elements, which will guide us throughout our collaborative work.
Making changes to the festival and creating new opportunities is a process requiring considerable reflection and hard work. First, we hired Jess Murwin as our main collaborator. Jess is an Indigenous (Mi'kmaq, Scottish, Welsh) artist, curator and educator with whom we have worked on various projects over the years. They will help guide us in the process, but we are also aware that many more hands (and voices) will be needed to make the initiative a success.
The second phase of the project is to create a collaborative committee bringing together Indigenous film professionals from the region and elsewhere. This committee will keep us grounded and connected to the community as our wider project takes shape. The members of the committee, as well as other Indigenous programmers and artists, will be invited to attend the 27th edition of the Regard Festival. This will allow us to get to know each other, enjoy the festival together, and open a dialogue on the meaning of the project and how we can move forward together.
A variety of activities are planned for our guests’ stay at the festival. First, there will be a Carte Blanche program presented by the First Peoples’ Festival, on Friday, March 24 at 7 p.m. A reception will be held before the screening, and there will be a “Think Tank” session the next day.
The third phase of the project will be the creation of a new competition for Indigenous filmmakers, starting with the 2024 edition. We have other short, medium and long-term goals, such as creating internship opportunities and, eventually, jobs for Indigenous people in the region, and touring the new program to communities around Quebec and the rest of Canada.