Montreal, July 4th 2014. Very soon, a historic trial will get underway in Guatemala in order to judge the accused in the Spanish embassy massacre. As we recall, on January 31st 1980, the national police launched an assault on the embassy, in contempt of international law, to kill all the Quiche Maya peasants who were occupying the premises in order to let the whole world know about the military exactions of which their villages were victims. Among the thirty-seven dead, most of whom were Indigenous, there were two Guatemalan jurists, several members of the diplomatic corps and Vicente Menchú, the father of the woman who would later become a Nobel Peace Prize winner.
As a stakeholder in the prosecution, in a country where crimes against humanity perpetrated by genocidal generals remain unpunished to this day, with very few exceptions, it is understandable that Rigoberta Menchú wants to devote her efforts to preparations for this historic trial, setting all other matters aside.
On the one hand, First Peoples’ Festival regrets that Rigoberta Menchú had to cancel the visit she was set to make to Montreal for the 24th edition of the event. On the other hand, we find it utterly positive to see the struggle against impunity continue, so that justice can finally prevail in Guatemala.
As we know, in 2007, invoking the extraterritoriality of crimes against humanity, Spain attempted to obtain the extradition of the high-ranking officers who had led the operation. We hope that, in this trial set to begin this autumn, that the charges will finally lead to conviction of those responsible for the mass killing perpetrated thirty-four years ago within the confines of a diplomatic mission.
First Peoples’ Festival firmly expresses its solidarity with all the victims of the atrocities committed during the years of the civil war in Guatemala, and in particular with Rigoberta Menchú Tum.
A visit from Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú; a launch of Samian’s new album, marked by a concert on the Loto-Québec stage at Place des Festivals, bedecked, illuminated and adorned in the colours of Aboriginal cultures, a top-flight international film and video competition, a jury chaired by the actor Sébastien Ricard; street theatre, exhibits, a conference, gastronomy, kino-visual happenings and a parade. These are noteworthy elements of the 24th edition of First Peoples’ Festival, an annual event dedicated to the arts and cultures of the First Peoples.
Terres en vues /Land Insights, at the helm of First Peoples’ Festival, is happy to announce today that the 2014 event will be held under the auspices of Rigoberta Menchú, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, who will do us the honour of being among us once again. The presence of Mrs Menchú and many personalities from throughout the Americas, in greater numbers than ever before, attest to the international vocation of the Montreal festival.
At its 24th edition, the event radiates vitality. Bursts of laughter and anger, things dazzling insights and songs, a filmography that is making its way and singular outlooks from many deeply-rooted nations. The impetuosity of youth feeds the fires of our 2014 program.
A new album for Samian and a large-scale free show. Samian is returning in force and his luminous lyrics sum up the 2014 festival theme: A joyous anger. Another rising name, Shauit, will offer a cabaret performance at Club Soda so the pleasure can last late into the night. It’ll be a hot evening on July 31st 2014!
Under the combined input of First Peoples’ Festival and le Meg, an Électrochoc evening, new grind, on August 1st; Acid Arab, an utterly hallucinatory group, and Cris Derksen, a viola virtuoso in a duet with DJ Shub (from Tribe called Red) will be on stage for an electro-dynamite show.
Saturday the 2nd, once again on the Loto-Québec stage, Place des Festivals, Beatrice Deer and Sinuupa, two Inuit singer-songwriters, rising stars in the constellation of Aboriginal artists, in an unforgettable performance.
Youth in music, youth on the cinematic side. Our opening film is a documentary by a new generation director, Kim Obomsawin. She made a mid-length film in a cooperative program from Canal D and APTN in support of emerging talent. La ligne rouge centres on young Aboriginal hockey players for whom sport is a personal best and also a path to a better future for themselves and their communities.
And, for our closing evening, youth once again and always, as we mark Wapikoni Mobile’s first decade. This very important training and creation initiative, targeting First Nations youth, now extends its reach to Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Panama. Upon invitation from Wapikoni Mobile, an international symposium will bring together major players involved in this big idea of First Nations creators re-appropriating audiovisual media for themselves. This event will accompany the scholarly colloquium Regards autochtones sur les Amériques, bringing together specialists in Indigenous art’s cinematic expression.
Thus our guest of honour Rigoberta Menchú will discover here in Montreal a festival that has moulted several times as it grows alongside the formidable cultural and artistic growth spurts of the First Peoples of the Americas. For another tredecade (as 13 marks a complete cycle in Mayan numerology), the festival will renew its commitment to offer an award bearing her name for significant cinematic works for the progress and advancement of Indigenous communities.
And there is a top-flight selection in 2014: from ten countries, 21 feature length and midl-length films, including 17 in competition.
There are such solid fictional films as The Activist (France-USA 2013), Drunktown’s Finest (USA 2013, screened at the latest Sundance Festival) or El Regreso (Venezuela, 2013). Documentaries from the new minimalist and Borgesian Argentine school, such as El impenetrable (launched at the Venice Festival), and Tunteyh, El rumor de la piedra. Or the more prudent Canadian and NFBian approach, the strong and beautiful Crazy Water by Dennis Allen. Films of struggle and protest, such as Le Chant de la fleur, about the Sarayaku community that made oil companies retreat or Insurgentes, by the veteran Jorge Sanjines, an Eisensteinian epic on the history of the Indigenous movement that laid the groundwork for the current plurinational Bolivian state. Documentaries on art such as Sanansaattaja (Finland 2013) on a Tibetan shepherd who had a shamanic revelation enabling him to sing the saga of King Gesar (the longest known literary work) or Joikfeber (Norway 2012) about the resurgence of an ancient Sami vocal art form. Unclassifiable narrations showing great boldness in formal terms, such as He Who Dreams by the renowned Dana Claxton, and The Healing Winds, a self-production by Joel Montanez, who could be the new Denis Côté of Quebec cinema.
And there is even a horror film: Feed the Devil, co-presented with Fantasia.
Worthy of mention is a new award, the APTN Award, to mark the exceptional work of an Aboriginal filmmaker who has distinguished him or herself during the year. The 2014 nominees are Jeff Barnaby for Rhymes for Young Ghouls, Madeline Piujuq Ivalu for Uvanga and Alanis Obomsawin for Hi-Ho Mistahey!
Indeed, there is no shortage of new artists or new works in 2014, with several young artists for whom the event is a chance to let loose with original creations:
Caroline Monnet, an Anishnabe artist, will work with her associate Sébastien Aubin to create an audiovisual setting as First Peoples’ Festival takes wing at Place des Festivals.
Moe Clark, a multidisciplinary artist, will be the narrator and singer for the street theatre performance of the tale Soleil pris au piège (Sun caught in a trap) an excerpt from the Tshakapesh saga (Véronique Hébert, an Atikamekw thespian, is partnering in the staging). With a musical accompaniment combining fairground and Amerindian music, thanks to Katia Makdissi-Warren (OktoÉcho).
A marching band, giant masks and marionettes will lead the Défilé de l’amitié nuestroamericana on Saturday, August 1st. In this parade, the world’s peoples, together today in multicultural Montreal, will honour Atahensic, the American Eve, by taking to the streets.
Photographer Roland Lorente will present, on Saint Catherine Street, large format photos devoted to Pow wow dancers and Eruoma Awashish will exhibit recent works at the Canadian Guild of Crafts.
Thus, at Place des Festivals, we will delight in a phantasmagorical setting staged by Michel Marsolais. There, you will find the Canal D longhouse (for fairground film screenings), the Archéo-Québec tent (an activity for children), Inuit stone carvers, traditional dances and street food. Nearby, at Le Contemporain restaurant, a more elaborate gastronomic menu awaits the most discerning gourmets.
All of this is made possible through precious partnerships with major institutions such as: the Grande Bibliothèque, where the opening and closing events will be held; the Cinémathèque québécoise for the screening of 2014 selection films, McCord Museum for the awards ceremony on Sunday, August 3rd; the Société des Arts technologiques which has programmed the film Maïna at Place de la Paix. Other musts are the participation of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela’s consulate, opening the doors of the Centro cultural Simon-Bolivar, and the cooperation of Kanien’kehá:ka Onkwawén:na Raotitióhkwa, the Mohawk cultural and language centre at Kahnawake. We also thank the Maison des musiques nomades, with the Banc d’essai show dedicated to new performing artists, and Tewekan Vision, a group of young Aboriginals who will make express videos during the festival. And this all too short list leaves out many individuals and organizations contributing to the festival’s scope and prestige.
All this friendship makes our hearts light and our angers joyful ones. Joyfully, artists will lead the world to needed changes. The 24th edition of Montreal’s First Peoples Festival is a foretaste of what the place of Aboriginal arts in Montreal will be starting from 2017, when they will finally have a permanent address. Montreal’s 375th anniversary is a finishing line and a starting point for new accomplishments, a destination our eyes are set on reaching.
2014 will mark one more milestone for a festival growing in beauty and resonance.
Note: Our Masks and Effigies groups will take a first outing on June 21st of this year at Place d’Armes during the National Aboriginal Peoples Day ceremony.