For three seasons now, Sonia Bonspille Boileau and her husband Jason Brennan have been shining the spotlight on young, aboriginal players who might have otherwise missed their shot at hockey stardom.
Bonspille Boileau and Brennan are the team behind Nish Media, an aboriginal film and television company with a hit show on APTN.
Hit the Ice! is a reality show featuring a hockey camp for the best aboriginal hockey players from across Canada.
“Our goal provide these players with an opportunity to be seen by scouts, because these kids don’t necessarily get a chance to be seen by scouts back home and a lot of them are really, really good so they deserve to be seen," Bonspille Boileau said.
Nish Media is filming the third season of Hit the Ice! now at the Centre Multisport in Châteauguay.
The players are coached by former NHLer John Chabot. He’s a Métis who dreamed of creating a hockey camp for these players.
When Bonspille Boileau and Brennan suggested a reality show based on the camp, the project got the funding it needed.
Following a hockey dream
Bonspille Boileau says sometimes it’s hard to convince the players to take a chance and sign up with a Junior or Major Junior team.
“There's a lot of kids that miss home — they miss their girlfriends," she says.
"I think in the end [missing home] is one of the reasons why... most of the kids from out West actually chose to go home instead of continuing and that's what we're trying to get them to see: yes, you might miss home but, in the end, it might pay off.”
Feature film project set on the reserve
Bonspille Boileau is also working on her first feature film.
She has $250,000 from Telefilm, Canada’s micro-budget grant program to make Le Dep (working title) within a year.
Le Dep is about a girl working at a general store on a reserve who experiences a hold up. It turns out the thief is a member of her family.
Bonspille Boileau says she feels an artistic dilemma in aboriginal film and television making:
If you are aboriginal, do you have to tell aboriginal stories exclusively?
And do you have to tell a story with a happy ending, or at least one with some hope?
The sense of obligation to focus on stories about the First Nations community was a hot topic of conversation at a symposium this week organized by Wapikoni Mobile.
It’s a travelling studio that’s been going to First Nations communities across Quebec to teach young people video and music recording skills.
The theme of the conversation was "Indigenous Cinema: A Faithful or a Distorting Mirror?"
The 'hard juggle'
First Nations filmmakers like Jeff Barnaby, director of Rhymes for Young Ghouls, Marquise Lepage who made the documentary Martha of the North, and Yves Sioui Durand, director of Mesnak, all had different ideas about the nature of their role and responsibility.
Durand believes that First Nations films can only be made by First Nations filmmakers.
'I’m trying to be realistic but I’m told I should provide hope to the people I’m speaking for.' - filmmaker Sonia Bonspille Boileau
Kim O’Bomsawin, the director of the new documentary La ligne rouge, says she deliberately chose to focus her doc on three successful teens who come from supportive families and who are also hockey players.
Bonspille Boileau says she feels pressure to ensure a happy ending to her work.
“I’m told, 'you have a social responsibility now.' There is a weight with that and you might want to reconsider your plot if it ends in a dark manner that would suggest there’s no hope for First Nations."
It’s a dilemma for the bubbly young woman.
“You know, sometimes life on a rez is dark and gloomy. I’m trying to be realistic but I’m told I should provide hope to the people I’m speaking for. It’s a hard juggle.”
The APTN series, Hit the Ice! is scheduled to air in the winter 2015 season.
Bonspille Boileau hopes to finish her film in a year from now.
The First People’s Festival continues this weekend.