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Cowichan's 2012 Aboriginal film fest offers more films, more intimate setting

Laura Harris and Adam Beach star in Path of Souls, a film by Jeremy Torrie that will be featured in the upcoming Cowichan Aboriginal Film Festival. - courtesy Jeremy Torrie
Laura Harris and Adam Beach star in Path of Souls, a film by Jeremy Torrie that will be featured in the upcoming Cowichan Aboriginal Film Festival.
— image credit: courtesy Jeremy Torrie

More screenings — not to mention smoked salmon — plus a new venue are a good indication of the growth of the Cowichan International Aboriginal Festival of Film and Art.

The eighth-annual celebration of Aboriginal filmmakers happens between April 17 and 20, and festival director Louise McMurray has a few tricks up her sleeve this year.

"We're hosting the entire film festival at the Quw'utsun' Cultural Centre, so we'll have two venues for screenings (Comiaken House and Khenipsen Theatre)," said McMurray. "This means we'll be double-screening every night with more film choices, all in one location."

The festival was previously based out of the Cowichan Theatre, but the move means more flexibility.

"For example," McMurray said, "we have a film called Smokin' Fish, so we're hoping to bring in some smoked fish made in different styles, and have a good discussion behind the traditional way of of smoking fish."

This year's festival also boasts a pair of world premieres — Path of Souls and Awakening Spirit — and more feature films than the fest has run in the past.

"First Nations filmmakers are really moving into feature films, and it's really exciting to see some of the work coming out now," McMurray said.

Path of Souls, for example, stars Adam Beach, Corey Sevier and Lorne Cardinal and blends North America's sacred teachings with scientific discovery.

"According to a thesis left behind by recently deceased Ojibway graduate student Jon Beardsley (Adam Beach) the legends surrounding these spirits are not just fantastic myths to tell around the campfire — they contain clues to an exchange of advanced knowledge of our cosmos," the film's synopsis reads.

"Wife Grace and best friend Brandon Eckhardt decide to complete Jon’s thesis, embarking on a cathartic road trip which takes them deep into Indian country to sacred sites across Native North America into the treacherous world of the supernatural, and the Path Of Souls."

Writer and director Jeremy Torrie — who will be at the film festival to participate in a Q&A session after the screening — said Path of Souls will take its audience on an emotional and intellectual journey.

"We'll see how I feel after the fact, whether people embrace it, or hate it, or are indifferent to it," Torrie told the News Leader Pictorial from Manitoba. "I don't think anybody is going to be indifferent to it, though. It's got a pretty controversial ending."

Torrie hopes the film sparks post-viewing debate.

"I like to think people are going to walk out of the movie feeling more intelligent," he said.

"If we want a mindless, stuff-blowing-up movie like Transformers or G.I. Joe, there's a market for that. But I'm not going for that market."

The film was indirectly inspired by Fred Alan Wolf's book, The Eagle's Quest, which Torrie had received from his grandfather.

"It's basically saying if we want any further insight into quantum mechanics and our universe, perhaps we should be looking at our elders, and the traditional teachings," Torrie said. "That sounds counter-intuitive to a Western culture ... but that's the whole magic of quantum physics — we don't live in a test tube or a lab."

Torrie encouraged Cowichanians to support Canadian filmmakers by attending screenings, visiting filmmakers' websites and leaving comments.

"That's the sort of thing," he explained, "that helps us justify to groups like Telefilm Canada that these are the types of films Canadian audiences want to see."

Your ticket

What: Cowichan International Aboriginal Festival of Film and Art

When: April 17 to 20, with two separate screenings each night at 6 and 8 p.m.

Where: Quw'utsun' Cultural Centre

Tickets: $25 for Welcome Dinner and Opening Ceremonies (featuring Tzinquaw Dancers); $8 per screening or $15 for a double-bill; $65 for a directors' pass, which includes the Welcome Dinner, Opening Ceremonies and six film screenings. Reservations strongly recommended. Call 250-746-7930 or visit the website for the full schedule.

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