Film by local artists, one of eight to feature in Hot Docs’ festival
Reeti Meenakshi Rohilla - Staff Writer
A film by two local artists has been chosen as one of eight short films for Hot Docs’ festival, Citizen Minutes. The Gift is a film inspired by Mino Bimaadiziwin, an Ojibway phrase meaning “live the good life,” shared Rachel Garrick, director/cinematographer of the film.
Garrick, who is also the narrator and sound recordist for the film, shared that this story is about some powerful teachings that she acquired as a child from her father, which is also an inspiration for her lifelong involvement with civic engagement.
“Part of living a good life is to dedicate a share of your efforts to the greater good, giving assistance and showing kindness wherever needed. Traditionally, many life lessons relating to Mino Bimaadiziwin were shared through storytelling, ceremonies, teachings and hands on experience passed down from one generation to the next. The story focuses on a father taking the opportunity to teach his daughter about some of the key principles of Mino Bimaadiziwin. I really hope this film makes people think. If you don’t have teachings to pass on, create them,” shared Garrick.
Hot Docs Director of Development April Hazan shared, “The Gift is a very special film that is unique to the other shorts in the Citizen Minutes program as it’s a deeply personal story and approaches the idea of citizenship and civic involvement from a very specific and intimate place. It reminds us that we are taught how to live a good life (an Ojibwe concept) and who, other than ourselves, we need to consider in that creation of that life.”
Hot Docs supports emerging filmmakers, creating space for diverse voices to be heard. Hazan shared that Hot Docs has spent close to three decades showcasing documentaries from around the world, and Citizen Minutes represents a new part of the organization’s mandate, which is to commission films and support filmmakers through the filmmaking process.
Film editor Nadine Arpin (who prefers the pronouns they, them, their) shared that they and Garrick have collaboratively worked on a few media projects prior to working on this film. They added, “In the fall of 2020, Rachel approached me with the Hot Docs’ Citizen Minutes call for submissions. She asked me to mentor her on her first film and pitched a few ideas she had. We decided on a story from her childhood. There was a huge response to this call for submissions. Rachel’s pitch was selected out of over 130 plus applications. I am very proud of the work she has done.” Garrick thanked Arpin for their support and motivation to help make this project a reality.
Producers of Citizen Minutes, Lisa Jackson and Lauren Grant, shared, “We were inspired both by Rachel’s story as well as how she wanted to tell it. She brought a unique perspective we didn’t see in other applications and of course we loved that it was a story from the town of Hudson in Northwestern Ontario. The Gift shows us how civic engagement starts at home and how important teachings like the ones her father shared shape our behavior, activism and engagement in community for the rest of our lives.”
Garrick shared that the film is based in Hudson, with some details especially pertinent to the locals of this area. “Hudson has a very significant bush plane history. So, coming to the first opening scene, the opening scene has a drone footage, and you can hear that bush plane, so that’s my nod to history, and throughout the film there are various other things to which local people will pick up for sure.”
Garrick is a band member of Lac Seul First Nation. She has over 25 years work and volunteer experience in the field of health, community, social justice and economic development. She shared, “To me, civic engagement means active involvement in making positive change to social, political, community, justice, and other issues that arouse my passions. My motto is ‘The best way to predict the future is to create it.’”
Garrick shared that as a child, she would often use her imagination to keep herself entertained. She would take several cutouts from catalogues and weave them into a creative live play for herself. She added that her latest film, The Gift, is a combination of live film and illustrations that are delivered with inspiration from Garrick’s childhood storytelling hobby. Don Ningewance, a Lac Seul First Nation artist, worked on the illustrations for the film.
Jackson and Grant shared, “The Gift is a great pick for Canadian audiences of all ages - but especially suited to a youth audience. The style of a filmed puppet play with incredible artwork by artist Don Ningewance is charming and heartwarming—the town itself has so much character. The lesson is about thinking beyond our own lives and realizing that we can have a positive effect on others with simple acts.”
Hazan shared, “We’ve contributed to this film through our support of emerging filmmakers, not only through funding, but through the implicit mentorship from the production team that we’ve assembled, as well as the profile the film will receive from its premiere at the Hot Docs Festival and future Citizen Minutes program.”
Garrick shared that she is thankful for the mentorship provided by Hot Docs, especially during COVID-19, when she was restricted to work on the film from home, by herself. She added that with permission from Hot Docs and ideal COVID restrictions, she hopes to conduct a premier of the film in Lac Seul, Hudson and Sioux Lookout. Citizen Minutes can be accessed during the festival between April 29 and May 9 through Hot Docs’ website www.hotdocs.ca.
Garrick hopes to see more people across the north apply for, and take advantage of such programs to project their voices and creativity to a wider audience. She shared, “I learned that sometimes an idea might seem silly to you, but it may have merit or value with someone else. You will never know unless you share it! I also learned that it takes a great team and a lot of support to produce a great film. I really hope these types of projects continue as they are so valuable in both content and in nurturing talent.”