A short film created and produced by a group of young people in Behchoko, N.W.T., has been chosen to be screened at an international film festival in Norway.
Breaking the Silence was made by the Tlicho Community Action Research Team with a local crew and northern actors. The goal was to show Aboriginal youth facing all-too-familiar challenges.
The film tells the story of 16-year-old Ori and her struggles to cope with a sexual assault.
"I know some people who have gone through this and they wouldn't let me help them in any way; they just accepted it like it was nothing," said 14-year-old Nolene Nitsizia, one of the film's actresses. "But it's definitely a topic that should be brought up."
'Didn't want to sugarcoat it'
Three years ago, the Tlicho Community Action Research Team surveyed people in the region. Nearly 25 per cent of respondents said they'd been forced to have sex. After that, the team decided to create a film to explore how people deal with sexual violence.
"I feel like the film was pretty important to me because I've known people that have gotten hurt," said Mason Mantla, the writer and director of the film. "I needed to be able to do something about it, this is the best I can do."
The 10-minute film is set in Behchoko and shows teens dealing with violence, drinking and suicide.
Mantla says the story itself came from the community.
"The film is pretty gritty, pretty dark. But it's also … a reflection of people's lives, what they actually go through. We wanted people to relate to the film. We didn't want to sugarcoat it."
Mantla hopes to travel to Norway in January to attend the film festival, and he wants to screen the film across the Tlicho region this winter.
The long-term plan is to incorporate the film into school curriculum, so it can help spark discussion about topics that Mantla says are becoming taboo.
"Once people start talking, I think we can start the healing process."