A one-night screening of short works by indigenous Canadian artists and filmmakers, The Power Within offers a potent concentration of creative energy.

Curator Michelle Latimer, a Métis and Algonquin actor and filmmaker who was raised in Thunder Bay and currently lives in Toronto, will be on hand to introduce the works. The Power Within screens at Cinematheque and is co-sponsored by the Urban Shaman gallery and the ImagiNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival.

There are common themes in these 11 works, including the residential school system and its continuing intergenerational trauma, the need to confront violence against indigenous women, and the power of cultural tradition in a contemporary world.

But there is also incredible variety in the ways these themes are expressed. The program’s genres include haunted hybrid histories (L’Enfance Déracinée, A Common Experience), striking experimental animations (Micta, Vessel), dance, performance and music pieces (Ruptura, Snare, I Can’t Remember), dark comedy (Pilgrims), even post-apocalyptic sci-fi (Wakening).

The Power Within

A Common Experience [dir. Shane Belcourt, 2013, Canada, 11 min.] explores the multigenerational affects of Canada's Residential School system. (Courtesy Cinematheque)

Within a generally strong program, there are a few standouts. A Common Experience, by director Shane Belcourt and playwright Yvette Nolan, juxtaposes poetic visual images with stark typed prose. Filling out a bureaucratic form—the Canadian government’s “Common Experience Payment” application for residential school survivors—Nolan relates her mother’s past, suggesting an emotional weight that has been carried through generations. 

Lisa Jackson’s Snare uses physical performance art to embody the epidemic of violence against indigenous women, expressing that horror in a series of simple, absolutely unforgettable images.

And Fort Frances, Ont.-born Métis artist Terril Calder muses on the value of humility in Vessel, an experimental animation involving a disquieting doll-like figure. This is a very concise, very brief work, but its eerie, unsettling atmosphere will stay with you for a long time.  

See The Power Within: Indigenous Canadian Shorts Program at Cinematheque on Thursday April 24 starting at 7 p.m. Hear Alison Gillmor on Up to Speed with host Ismaila Alfa at 3:30 p.m.