In The Making

See the In the Making team capture a vital — and ephemeral — new performance by Rebecca Belmore

At sunrise, Belmore made a new work then washed it all away. Director Amar Wala takes you inside the shoot.

At sunrise, Belmore made a new work then washed it all away. Director Amar Wala takes you inside the shoot

Rebecca Belmore — In the Making behind the scenes featurette

2 years ago
5:59
At sunrise, Belmore made a new work then washed it all away. Director Amar Wala takes you inside the shoot. 5:59

In the Making takes you on an immersive journey inside the lives and work of Canada's leading artists. Stream the whole season now on CBC Gem, or watch it on CBC-TV Friday nights beginning tonight, September 27th at 8:30 p.m. (9 p.m. NT) with Beverly Glenn-Copeland, and Rebecca Belmore in the season finale on November 15th.

Rebecca Belmore is one of Canada's most well-respected and beloved artists and the first Indigenous woman to represent Canada at the Venice Biennale. Her artworks attend to deep-seated trauma with surprising beauty. Her career is now in the midst of a resurgence: her life's work is now touring across Canada in her largest survey exhibition yet, Facing the Monumental. Host Sean O'Neill visits her studio in Toronto, where Rebecca shares her process of production; travels with her to Thunder Bay, the troubled city where she grew up; and then meets up with her as she puts the finishing touches on Facing the Monumental at the Remai Modern in Saskatoon, where her work provokes an unsettling response.

Throughout her episode of In the Making we see Belmore preparing and then performing a new work, and then washing it all away with buckets of water. In the behind the scenes video above, see how the In the Making crew and Belmore prepared to capture this ephemeral moment on a cold morning at sunrise in the Heddle Shipyards in Hamilton, Ontario and below read our Q&A with episode director Amar Wala about the experience of directing the episodes, what he sees as a collaboration with Rebecca Belmore.

Filmmaker Amar Wala has tackled issues of racism (The Secret Trial 5), identity (Stateless) and economic injustice (Payday) in his documentary  work and directed two episodes (Lido Pimienta & Adrian Stimson) in the first season of In the Making.  

When he found out that one of Canada's most high-profile and legendary artists Rebecca Belmore had asked for him specifically to direct her episode of In the Making in Season Two, it was a dream come true. CBC Arts talked to Wala before the launch of the season to discuss what it was like to profile an icon.

Q: Rebecca Belmore is one of the world's most respected artists. What was your reaction when you found out that you would be directing her episode of In the Making ?

A: I first met Rebecca at the premiere of ITM last year, and she was incredibly complimentary about my episode on Adrian Stimson. I was like "Rebecca Belmore likes my work!!" A few months later as we were planning season 2, Sean told me that Rebecca wanted to do the show, and had asked to work with me. I was equal parts humbled and nervous. She is the biggest artist in Canada, and I knew this one would need to be special.    

Q: What did you see as the most challenging aspect of profiling her for the series?

A: There were two large challenges I constantly grappled with. The first was just logistical - Rebecca is very busy and all over the world and finding time with her was a challenge. She was very gracious and open, but her time is limited. Secondly and more importantly, as a non-Indigenous racialized artist myself, I've often wondered what collaboration with Indigenous artists will look like in my work. That's how I see it, a collaboration. I'm not making something ABOUT Rebecca Belmore, I'm making it with her. This is the only way we settlers can break the colonial tropes and processes inherent in documentary filmmaking. 

Q: How important is it to you that BIPOC filmmakers are the authors of documentaries on BIPOC people?  Do you think it makes a difference?

A:It obviously makes a difference, I don't think there can be any debate about that. But I also think we have to be careful about lumping all BIPOC artists together and asking racialized filmmakers to represent all racialized groups. That puts unfair pressure on the few of us lucky enough to make work in this country.  

The history of this art form (film in general but documentary in particular) has been that our communities have had stories told ABOUT us. All we want is a chance to tell stories ourselves. So if a white filmmaker wants to tell a story about POC, that's fine. Just know that the bar is really high. You have to show us that your art comes from a place of solidarity, of empathy, and allyship. Prove to us you were the right person to tell the story and if it turns out you weren't, be prepared to face the consequences.       

Q: Was working with Rebecca intimidating?

A: Not at all. She is a warm and generous person. I don't think you can make art as incredible as hers without a deep love of people and nature.  

Q: Do you have a favourite work of hers?  Why?

A: I am obsessed with At Pelican Falls. The first thing we filmed with Rebecca was her folding denim meticulously for what felt like hours. It's one of my favourite scenes in the episode. It's like watching an athlete in a zone, she's in another world. I think it really captures that balance of beauty and difficulty she speaks about in our show.  

Q: Was there anything left on the cutting room floor that you wish you could have included?

A: Luckily, no. All my favourite stuff got in. 

Q: Describe the last day of shooting – it seems like it was a big 24 hours in your life!

A: Yes it certainly was. After months of us hoping to capture a live performance by Rebecca, we finally shot one in Hamilton on our very last shoot day of the season. It also happened to be at sunrise the morning after the Toronto Raptors won the NBA title. I'm a lifelong fan so let's just say I didn't get much sleep before the shoot, which may be the coolest thing we've filmed in two years on this show. I can't wait for people to see Rebecca's performance, it's a mind-blowing scene.  

Q: Any regrets? Advice? Final thoughts?

A: No regrets and no advice, but I'll leave you with Rebecca's words: 

Art is good, and life is great.

In the Making takes you on an immersive journey inside the lives and work of Canada's leading artists. Stream the whole season now on CBC Gem, or watch it on CBC-TV Friday nights beginning tonight, September 27th at 8:30 p.m. (9 p.m. NT) with Beverly Glenn-Copeland, and Rebecca Belmore in the season finale on November 15th.

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