New film by Calgary director showcases Indigenous voices and stories

A Calgary director's new film that touches on Indigenous storytelling will premier in theatres all across North America today.

Parallel Minds, a sci-fi thriller shot in Calgary, premiers in theatres today

Parallel Minds, written and directed by award-winning director Benjamin Ross Hayden, is an Indigenous sci-fi film about technology and traditional knowledge. (LevelFilm and Andras Schram)

A Calgary director's new film that touches on Indigenous storytelling is premiering in theatres across North America today.

Parallel Minds, an Indigenous sci-fi thriller shot in Calgary last year, was written and directed by Métis director, Benjamin Ross Hayden.

It stars Greg Bryk from CBC's Frontier and award-winning Calgary Cree actress Michelle Thrush, from Blackstone on Netflix and APTN.

Hayden says his films shine a spotlight on Indigenous voices.

His first film, The Northlander, which was also shot in Alberta, was touted by Vice magazine as one of Indigenous cinema's most important films.

Parallel Minds is also on the way to being seen as an important project across the world. It has been selected for 15 international film festivals and received eight nominations — one of them being best film for the American Indian Film Festival as well as the Blood in the Snow Film Festival in Toronto.

"It's important to continue the dialogue with perspectives that come from traditional knowledge for the land and for fighting for freedoms for Indigenous people, where now that has a place in our world today," he said.

Michelle Thrush, who portrays Elise Perrott in the film, says she enjoyed combining science fiction with Indigenous storylines. (LevelFilm)

Thrush, the lead actress, says she agrees, and that as an Indigenous woman, it's been a challenge to be seen in the film industry as well as being part of valid Indigenous storylines.

"Something that I've been super aware of my whole career is just showing Indigenous people as human beings," she said.

"They don't always have to be shamans or alcoholics … but actual human beings are a huge part of what I stand for in my career."

Thrush says she is happy to see more Indigenous people, like Hayden, stepping into the roles of writing, producing and directing, since it helps change stereotypes often present in the industry.

"It's important that we are leading our own stories … and doing what's needed to create a presence in the industry," she said.

Narrative for Indigenous cinema

Hayden says he is a member of Telefilm Canada's Indigenous Advisory Council and that the group constantly revisits and strengthens the narrative around Indigenous cinema in Canada. 

In Hayden's films, he explores the theme of science fiction when telling Indigenous stories, which is something he says he's noticed other storytellers begin to dive into as well.

"All of this speaks volumes about the growing fan base of the Indigenous film and Indigenous futurism. And so, you know, it's an important perspective that's needed now during these times of the BIPOC movement internationally," he said.

For Thrush, she says her character's connection to Indigenous culture combined with science fiction was something interesting to portray.

"I think that to me, it is really interesting when you look at science fiction or if you look at any of the projection into the future of how things are going to be different, things are going to change, and a lot of the guidance of Indigenous storytelling or elders or whatever you want to say about that, is it really does," she said.

"It's a part of our life. It's a part of who we are to be, able to transfer back and forth through different timelines."

  • You can watch the trailer for Parallel Minds below.

As well, she likes that her character is in a high position of power in the tech field, which she hopes inspires young Indigenous women who watch the film.

"To use storytelling and to use theatre, film, television — whatever medium you want — and be able to change the narrative of what it means to be an Indigenous woman. It's time for us to just come together and shine that light, which I see happening."

Canadian audiences can find Parallel Minds in theaters in 16 cities and towns across the country throughout the next three months.