Calgary Indigenous girls share experiences of racism, sexism in short film

Shadows in Time follows the first award-winning film produced by the Stardale Women's Group called The Road, which explored various themes around missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG).

'It blows me away how powerful our words can really be,' says 15-year-old Brooke Strongeagle

Brooke Strongeagle is a co-writer and actor in Shadows In Time. The other girls, ranging in age from 10 to 17, are Aaliyah Melting Tallow, Alyssa Ryan, Eve Strongeagle and Nicole Hellson-Redcrow. (Stardale Women's Group)

A group of Indigenous girls in Calgary is releasing their second short film on Friday called Shadows In Time, which deals with racism and sexism based on their lived experiences. 

The film follows the success of their first short film called The Road, which was released last year and explored various themes around Murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG).

The Road has since received awards, including best women's issue at the 2021 Vancouver Independent Film Festival.

WATCH | Find out why walking The Road can be so hard

Indigenous teens write and star in short film The Road, sharing experiences around MMIWG

1 year ago
The Indigenous teens involved with The Road, a short film written by and starring members of the Stardale Women's Group in Calgary, talk about making a short film exploring themes tied to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and the legacy of colonialism in Canada.

Everyone involved in the latest project said they hope this latest production will also be as well received.

"It amazes me. I never thought our films would be as big as they are," said Brooke Strongeagle, co-writer and actor in Shadows In Time.

Like the first film, Shadows in Time is a compilation of stories by the young women, aged 10 to 17, put together by local playwright Eugene Stickland.

The script was then adapted for the screen by Calgary director Kristina Fithern-Stiele and produced by the organization Stardale Women's Group, which helps Indigenous girls overcome all kinds of barriers.

"It's graphic, extremely hard hitting, that's how the girls describe it, and it's very touching," said Helen McPhaden, executive producer of the film and Stardale founder.

Lived experiences

Strongeagle, 15, is from the Pasqua First Nation in Saskatchewan but grew up in Calgary with her grandmother. 

She recalls one major moment early on in her life when she felt different from everyone else. She says it happened when she first went to elementary school.

"And I remember coming home crying, crying to my grandma, asking her, 'Why am I not white, why was I not born white?'" said Strongeagle.

She says she is now proud to be Indigenous and doesn't feel that way anymore. But looking back, she says she still feels bad for making her grandmother cry, too. 

Nowadays, she says more people stand up to racism — but she still notices it in small ways — as in the way people respond when she says her name.

"Indirect racism is definitely a thing," said Strongeagle.

Teaching tool

Director Kristina Fithern-Stiele says she thought the girls' personal stories would have the most impact if they were told directly into the camera. (Stardale Women's Group)

Fithern-Stiele says because these were the girls' personal stories, she thought they would have the most impact if they were told directly into the camera.

"Putting people in a position where they have to listen to what these girls have gone through — and kind of empathize with that and realize that this is still the way of the world is, unfortunately," said Fithern-Stiele. 

Strongeagle believes that strategy worked.

"It blows me away how powerful our words can really be when we have the voice to say it, to say what we need to be heard." 

McPhaden says the first film has received a lot of positive feedback and has been shown to different organizations, including the Calgary Police Service.

The girls and Stardale hope to expand their audience even further and introduce both films into Calgary classrooms, where they say some of these experiences are rooted.

"Like truth and reconciliation were only at the precipice of this. We've got a long way to go," said McPhaden.

A free screening of Shadows in Time takes place Friday night online and in-person at the Bella Concert Hall at Mount Royal University starting at 7 p.m. More information about getting free tickets and streaming live is available here.

'It's graphic, extremely hard hitting, that's how the girls describe it, and it's very touching,' says Helen McPhaden, executive producer of the film. (Stardale Women's Group)