The Road to Webequie
FESTIVAL SCREENINGS and AWARDS
WORLD PREMIERE - TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL, September 13, 2016
South Western International Film Festival, Sarnia, Ontario, Nov. 4, 2016
$1000 Audience Award for Best Short Film
Canadian Screen Nomination for Best Short Documentary
Belleville Downtown Doc Fest - March 4
Kingston Canadian Film festival - March 3 and 4
In the remote island home to Webequie First Nation, a nearby mining development poses new hopes and threats for the local community. A new all-season road would bring cheaper access to food and infrastructure, and a mine new job opportunities for this fly-in community. However, many of the 800 here have suffered through years of hardship that has led to poverty and substance abuse, and recognized the need to return to the foundation of their culture, including life on their land. Youth and elders worry that if not managed properly, the mine may bring only short-term solutions, and fail to share its true value. Visiting in both the winter and spring, the film follows the journey of 7-year old Kenisha and 17-year olds Sharmaine and Brennan, students with different backgrounds, facing difficult career choices. While many students move 500km south to Thunder Bay after high school, for education, jobs, or to try out big city life, something keeps bringing them back to their home.
The film gives voice to these three youth by juxtaposing intimate interviews with stunning landscape and aerial photography. Portraying the challenges of contemporary life on a remote reserve in Canada that is facing imminent development, The Road to Webequie offers stark observations on the efforts of youth and a community trying to overcome their hardships.
Kenisha is a grade 3 student at Simon Jacob Memorial, Kenisha is the oldest child of her family. Kenisha shares a house with her mother Terilyn, brother, aunt, uncle, baby cousins, and grandparents.
Sharmaine is looking forward to a life outside of the reserve, but is also nervous about giving up her connection to the land and her family. In Fall 2016 she’ll move to Thunder Bay to finish high school in the College Access Program at Confederation College.
Brennan is a high school dropout who lives off the land by hunting and trapping regularly. A drug addict since the age of 12, he finally feels in control of his addiction and moving his life forward.
Bob Wabasse was a school counsellor, and is now a cultural instigator, teacher, and co-ordinator for the community; everyone in Webequie knows Bob, and many youth look to him for guidance and advice.
◙ DIRECTOR STATEMENT ◙
Travelling and filming in remote indigenous communities over the past few years, we were overwhelmed by stories of the challenges faced by youth. When fellow producer Kersh Theva, who had worked at Simon Jacob Memorial in Webequie for six weeks, brought us the story of Webequie, we felt that the very least we could do to contribute to the difficult situation was to document contemporary life in Webequie, but distinctly from a youth perspective. We started with the intent of filming an observational documentary on youth opportunity in a remote reserve: something quiet, with a poetic and slow pace in the tone of Etre et Avoir, A Place Called Los Perez, and À Saint-Henri le Cinq Septembre.
By the end of our two 5-day trips to Webequie, Kenisha was following us around all day and night, and Brennan was opening up to us on his boat. Very quickly, our subjects revealed more behind the surface than just their challenges and opportunities as youth. Recent suicide news in nearby Attawapiskat Cree reserve only made the situation feel more delicate, and we felt the need to address and include the more serious material that we were presented with but - perhaps naively - did not expect to uncover. When we returned to shore with Brennan, for example, he even thanked us for letting him talk about some of these issues; just as Sharmaine told us that for a while after her friend’s suicide, she didn't feel allowed to speak about it. At these points, and during our time with Bob and out walking the island, filming day and night, we felt like we were giving the youth a bit of the voice we had originally intended.
Making the personal connections we did has encouraged us to pursue stories of these characters and others in the community in a future long form project, which was also always our intent. Following the challenges and successes of the youth and their homeland over a few key upcoming years, we believe the urgent subject matter of the film needs to be reflected and documented. While journalistic reports can help make us aware of issues at hand, our belief for change is in the emotional connection brought about by the intimate observational cinema we are pursuing.
THE ROAD TO WEBEQUIE PRODUCTION TEAM
FIFTH TOWN FILMS is a multi-media production company that reflects the Canadian landscape through award-winning hybrid combinations of documentary, fiction, and interactive media. FTF was established as a partnership between collaborators Ryan J. Noth and Tess Girard in 2012, and is based in a century-old carriage house in Prince Edward County, Ontario. Previous projects by both Ryan and Tess have premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, SXSW, Rotterdam, Buenos Aires, and across Canada and Europe. Recent work includes the short films Beyond The Horizon (2015), A Tomb With A View (2014), and Old Growth (2012).
TESS GIRARD is a filmmaker and cinematographer, and her work lies somewhere between documentary and experimental, exploring subject matter from a philosophical perspective with visual techniques that compel audiences to engage in the work on a highly personal level. Tess’ film A Simple Rhythm premiered at Hot Docs and VIFF in 2010, and her film Old Growth at TIFF and Canada’s Top Ten in 2012. She just completed her debut feature documentary, As The Crow Flies, with the National Film Board.
RYAN J NOTH is a multi-platform filmmaker, editor, and producer. His recent short films Beyond The Horizon (2015) and A Tomb With A View (2014) premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, and played across Canada and Europe. His filmmaking career includes premieres at SXSW and Rotterdam, and the improvised feature fiction film No Heart Feelings (2010, Buenos Aires premiere). Ryan is currently developing the feature The Future's Past.
KERSH THEVA is a graduate student at Berkeley College, San Francisco, in science. During his time visiting Webequie with Queen’s Health Outreach, he developed relationships in the community. He brought these connections and the story of contemporary life there to filmmakers Ryan J. Noth and Tess Girard, and proceeded to write and co-produce the short film as well.
JOHN PRICE is a director of photography, teacher, and filmmaker. His work on film and video has premiered at the Toronto and Rotterdam International Film Festivals.
PAUL AUCOIN is a musician, producer, and sound recordist. Paul recorded sound on site in Webequie, and also produced an improvised recording session at Jeff McMurrich’s 7 Nassau just prior to its closure. With McMurrich engineering, percussionist Ed Reifel and guitar player Andrew Whiteman, as well as Aucoin on vibraphone, created sound textures for the film.