Indigenous filmmaker Hannam brings Two-Spirit odyssey to film fest circuit

Bretten Hannam’s second feature-length film Wildhood is opening this year's FIN Atlantic International Film Festival on Thursday, Sept. 16 and the 37-year-old couldn’t be more proud because their film will help bring people together. 

FIN Atlantic International Film Fest opener Wildhood reconnects with culture and identity

Published by CBC Communications

Wildhood, starring from left, Phillip Lewitski, Avery Winters-Anthony and Joshua Odjick, will open the FIN Atlantic International Film Festival on Thursday, Sept. 16. (Photo Credit: Riley Smith)
Bretten Hannam's second feature-length film Wildhood is opening this year's FIN Atlantic International Film Festival on Thursday, Sept. 16 and the 37-year-old filmmaker couldn't be more proud because their film will help bring people together.

"We spend so much time isolated and away from each other with this pandemic and the point of the film is that it's hard to do things alone," said Hannam. 

"We do things together, we do things as a family and as a community. And that's true no matter who you are. You can't do things alone. It's hard to be alone." 

Wildhood is the story of Mi'kmaw teenager Link, who with his half-brother Travis, flees an abusive father and embarks on a two-spirit odyssey, reconnecting with culture and the territory of Mi'kma'ki (Nova Scotia) while trying to find his (Link's) mother. 

Director/producer/writer Bretten Hannam, left, speaks with Phillip Lewitski and Joshua Odjick, on the set of Wildhood. Production took place in the Annapolis Valley along the Bay of Fundy in Mi’kma’ki (Nova Scotia) in the summer of 2020. (Photo Credit: Riley Smith)
Through his journey, Link tries to reconnect to his L'nu roots while learning if he can trust again. L'nu is the Mi'kmaw word for themselves and means the people. The themes of identity, reconnection and finding out where one belongs are woven throughout the story. 

Hannam identifies as a Two-Spirit L'nu and prefers the pronouns they/them. To them Two-Spirit identity is more about their connection to land than sexuality and gender. 

"Now, I spend less time on social media and more time in the forest," said Hannam.

Hannam grew up in the Annapolis Valley and spent most of their time fishing, swimming and exploring the woods. And as they got older and moved to the city for school, they could feel themselves becoming anxious. 

Heading back to Bear River First Nation was important for Hannam's wellbeing. 

"Being on the land reminds me, you can just be," said Hannam. 

And the landscape of Kespukwitk, the Annapolis Valley, is heavily featured in the story. 

Hannam spends their spare time reconnecting to the land and the Mi'kmaw language. They're learning from fluent speakers and are involved with the Wabanaki Two Spirit Alliance. The organization was also involved in the production. 


Hannam was elated to have more of the community involved. 

"That is so amazing, there are so many talented people that might not always get a chance," said Hannam, whose first feature-length film was North Mountain debuted in 2015. 

Joshua Odjick and Phillip Lewitski star in Wildhood. The film deals with themes of community, culture and language, with a focus on Two-Spirit and LGBTQ+ identity. (Photo Credit: Riley Smith)
Wildhood was filmed in both English and Mi'kmaw. Mi'kmaw language keepers and holders were brought on to assist with the language.  And respected Elder Mary Rebecca "Becky" Julian from Sipekne'katik First Nation was truly a gem on set. 

"Becky is amazing and truly a beautiful person," said Hannam. 

They explained giving direction to an Elder was intimidating and often found themselves learning from her. 

The film also features Phillip Lewitski, Avery Winters-Anthony, Joshua Odjick and Michael Greyeyes. 

The plot borrows from Hannam's own life, the director/producer is still discovering their own family roots and are reconnecting to their Mi'kmaw roots. 

And as their own profile rises, Hannam hopes to see other Indigenous filmmakers break through, but there are barriers. 

"There's still a big lack of support and capacity building at least here at home," said Hannam.

They hope to see more opportunities for training for Indigenous people so one day a production can be run entirely by Indigenous talent.


Director and Writer:
Bretten Hannam
Producers:  Bretten Hannam, Gharrett Patrick Paon, Julie Baldassi, Damon D'Oliveira
Cast: Phillip Lewitski, Joshua Odjick, Avery Winters-Anthony, Savonna Spracklin, Joel Thomas Hynes
Cinematographer: Guy Godfree
Editor: Shaun Rykiss
Languages: English and Mi'kmaw
Runtime: 100 minutes

Wildhood is the Opening Night Gala at FIN Atlantic International Film Festival. It screens at Cineplex Cinemas Park Lane in Halifax, Thursday, Sept. 16, 7 p.m. Online access through FIN Stream will be available for 24 hours starting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 16.

Wildhood made its world premiere at the Toronto International FIlm Festival TIFF this week and will also be screened at Devour! The Food Film Festival in Wolfville, N.S. in October. 


Oscar Baker III is a Black and Mi’kmaw reporter from Elsipogtog First Nation. He is the Atlantic region reporter for CBC Indigenous. He is a proud father and you can follow his work @oggycane4lyfe