Fifty years after the passing of Canada's Bill C-150, which partially decriminalized homosexuality, celebrated Canadian artists including filmmaker and ECU alum Thirza Cuthand (BFA, 2005) are sharing work that reflects on LGBTQ2+ lives and identities in a new short-film collection from the National Film Board, called Five@50. Artists Michèle Pearson Clarke, Tiffany Hsiung, Vivek Shraya and Michael V. Smith also contribute work to the collection, which premieres in Toronto on Nov. 12 at TIFF Bell Lightbox, online at NFB.ca on Nov. 13, and at UBC Okanagan on Nov. 18.
A unique collection of intimate documentaries, the works in Five@50 range from personal reflection to cultural history, and include experimental forms, animation and dramatization.
In Thirza's contribution, a short documentary entitled Woman Dress which features dramatized re-enactments, the filmmaker's Auntie Beth recounts a family oral story of the film's eponymous Two Spirit protagonist. In pre-contact times, Woman Dress Woman Dress travels from village to village across the Plains, collecting and telling stories, and sharing news.
According the NFB's synopsis of the film, the survival of Woman Dress within the oral tradition of the Cuthand family is "an act of resistance against colonialism and Christianity, which almost eradicated the position of Two Spirit people in Cree communities.
In creating a backdrop for Woman Dress' story, the film draws on archival NFB footage of the Prairies, as well as images of contemporary urban settings. Thirza also uses a particular linguistic strategy to show reverence for the the story of the film's protagonist:
"Cree has no gendered pronouns, and the film honours and respects Woman Dress’s gender identity by alternating she/he pronouns instead of imposing a colonial binary system on them," the synopsis notes. "[The film] is a powerful act of reclaiming history and present-day space for Two Spirit people."
The Toronto date will mark the collection's world premiere, and will feature a discussion with the filmmakers, moderated by Rachel Giese, award-winning author and editorial director of Xtra.
The UBC Okanagan Pride Resource Centre is hosting a public screening of Five@50 at the Kelowna campus on Nov. 18 from 5pm to 7pm in the Student Union UNC106 Theatre, with Michael V. Smith in attendance for a Q&A.