A film premiere aiming to improve race relations between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Thunder Bay drew a full house Thursday night.
Hundreds of people came out to the Community Auditorium for the Walk-A-Mile Film Project — a series of short documentaries that features people talking about issues ranging from hurtful stereotypes to the trauma of residential schools.
Clyde Moonias of the Neskantaga First Nation said he wishes he had seen the films back in Grade 9, when he moved to Thunder Bay for high school.
"What they talked about — I felt that racism. I've been through it. I experienced it,” he said.
Moonias said, if he'd seen the films, he would have felt more prepared for the racism he would face in the city. It would have also helped him feel proud of his culture.
When he started high school, he said he stopped his traditional practices like smudging and drumming for a few years because he was afraid.
"I'm hoping that not just indigenous youth but non-indigenous youth will see these films,” he said.
Moonias said he believes the film series can help combat racism and help First Nations youth feel proud of their culture.
Inspiration to learn more
The films also show how the absence of Aboriginal history in Canadian classrooms has fuelled stereotypes and fears.
Thunder Bay resident Ricky Kruger said, after watching the films, he realizes how much his school didn’t teach him.
"I learned everything tonight ... the only information I had was very wrong or [uneducated] information from my family or friends."
Kruger said the Walk-A-Mile premiere has inspired him to find out more about First Nations issues.
Now that the film series has been launched, the City of Thunder Bay’s Aboriginal Liaison will distribute it throughout the community for use as an educational and training tool.
The film series was directed and produced by Aboriginal filmmaker Michelle Derosier of Thunderstone Pictures.
“Film can be a powerful tool to create social change,” Derosier said in a city press release about the project in January.
“The Walk-a-Mile Film Project is an invitation to the community to engage in courageous conversations about our shared history, our issues with race relations, our struggles and successes and how we can move forward together in this community. As a filmmaker, I've witnessed the impact that storytelling can have, and I feel that this project can help us to move forward in a positive direction.”
For more information go to walkamilefilmproject.ca.