Montreal First Peoples Festival announces programming

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The 28th edition of the Montreal First Peoples Festival was unveiled July 24 to the press at the city’s Grande Bibliothèque.

“Indigenous presence is the quiet and unstoppable strength of the emergence of voices that will never again be confined to silence,” artistic director André Dudemaine stated. “The dazzling artistic advances of the early cultures, which had been too quickly filed away on the shelf of ancient archives, are now being reformulated in hybrid forms with contributions from different backgrounds.”

Many backgrounds will be represented at this year’s festival, held on August 7-15 in the Quartier des spectacles, with other events throughout the month at various venues.

The cultural celebration will transform the downtown area into a First Nations village, featuring parades, free concerts, cinema, poetry readings and Indigenous street food.

The major outdoor events kick off August 8 with an evening concert by Don Amero, with a screening of the film When They Awake. This documentary presents a new generation of Indigenous musicians in a time of cultural and political resurgence, appropriately setting the stage for performers scheduled over the coming nights.

Popular Nunavut band The Jerry Cans will play the next night, preceded by award-winning Nunavik singer-songwriter Beatrice Deer. Nikamotan MTL takes the stage Saturday night with progressive sounds from Iskwé, Chances, Anachnid, Annie Sama, Wolf Castle, Violent Ground and Sacred Wolf Singers.

Film is what established the festival’s reputation, and this year nearly 60 films from Indigenous communities around the world will be screened, including several world or Canadian premieres. At the press conference, special mentions were given to South American films Wiñaypacha, La Selva Negra (The Modern Jungle), and Ex-Pajé (Ex-Shaman).

The Grande Bibliothèque’s auditorium will host the festival’s inauguration with a program of short films. “We are happy to start with short films, because when we talk about them we talk about youth,” said Dudemaine. “There are many new voices who are working creatively to preserve our traditions, a generation coming to restore the order of things.”

Dirt McComber was on hand to discuss the eponymous documentary about his life, as the last in his community to maintain a traditional Mohawk livelihood while supporting his large family and coaching a lacrosse team. The film will screen in both Montreal and his native Kahnawake during the fest.

“I’m the only person who does what I do in my community – living off the land and the river,” said McComber in his gruff, blunt manner. “I do what I want – I don’t listen to nobody.”

One event not to be missed is the interactive theatrical performance of Ioskeha and Tawiscara: The Great Game of Creation, takes place on August 10 and 12. The traditional story of the Haudenosaunee people and the confrontation of twin giants creating the world will involve numerous participants and be accompanied by drumming from Northern Voice and music by DJ XS7.

Another highlight will be the eighth edition of the Friendship Parade Nuestroamericana marching colourfully through downtown on the weekend, representing the diversity of contemporary Montreal and promoting intercultural exchange and unity between First Nations and other peoples of the world.

“In 2017, the parade had 1700 participants,” said organizer Angela Cayon. “This year it will have 60 groups representing diversity from America and other continents. It is an event made with love and passion.”

To fuel all this activity, a variety of delicious food inspired by First Nations traditions will be available at competitive prices, including pulled bison sandwiches and elk sausages.

The week-long festival promises to be an immersive experience, offering the participating artists access to international exposure while serving as a bridge between Indigenous heritage and the city’s myriad communities.

As Dudemaine put it, “We are searching to create a new collective ‘us’ in order to be able to place ‘us’ in a present that is fair.”

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