National Film Board taps Sask. storytellers for doc series – Saskatoon

The National Film Board has challenged three storytellers in Saskatchewan to create short documentaries about life and culture in the province.

First Nations filmmaker Louise BigEagle, writer Kristin Catherwood, and filmmaker Eric Thiessen will be part of the NFB’s Doc Lab – an intensive, ten-week program designed to encourage would-be filmmakers.

Preserving language and culture 

When Louise BigEagle sees someone having a conversation in fluent Nakota-Assiniboine, she said the speakers have a connection between each other that she cannot experience.

BigEagle, from the Ocean Man First Nation, does not speak Nakota-Assiniboine despite the fluency of older generations including her aunts, uncles and grandfather — a trend she has noticed in her own and subsequent generations.

“I think [why] we’re a bit separated right now is because we don’t know our languages,” BigEagle told CBC Radio’s The Morning Edition on Wednesday. “We just know English and a lot of us are getting more urbanized.”

A recent report by Statistics Canada indicated that the number of people in Saskatchewan who identify an Indigenous language as their mother tongue has decreased in 2016 to 28,340 from 30,895 in 2011. The most common Indigenous language spoken in Saskatchewan is Cree, in multiple dialects.

“I just want people to know that we’re around,” BigEagle said, who grew up taking Cree classes in school — some of which she retained —  but does not know much of her Nakota-Assiniboine tongue.

Saskatoon’s Eric Thiessen is one of the three Saskatchewan storytellers who will make a short documentary about local life and culture for the National Film Board. (CBC)

A night to remember 

Saskatoon’s Eric Thiessen also stuck close to home for his pitch to the NFB.

“It spends one night in the Saskatoon mobile crisis centre,” Thiessen said in an interview with CBC Radio’s Saskatoon Morning.

The idea came to Thiessen after hearing stories from a friend whose wife works as a social worker with mobile crisis. Thiessen believes they are unsung heroes of the city, whose hard work goes mostly unnoticed by the general public.   

“If you are in crisis you can call and they will work with you, whether that means just talking through whatever you are going through on the phone, helping you with that. It could mean social workers visiting you or visiting the place that you think needs attention, and sometimes they will also involve police,” he said.


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