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What would Superman look like if he was a Cree girl?

Winnipeg Indigenous filmmaker Sonya Ballantyne has always been drawn to the stories of superheroes because she sees parallels between their stories and the experiences of Indigenous people.
Indiginerd Sonya Ballantyne creates superhero films starring Indigenous female characters with superpowers. (Submitted by Sonya Ballantyne)
Listen9:18

Originally published November 12, 2017

Indigenous filmmaker Sonya Ballantyne has always been drawn to the stories of superheroes because she sees parallels between their stories and the experiences of Indigenous people.

"Batman lost his parents at a young age and was raised by another person. Superman lost his family and was being raised in another culture. Wonder Woman had to leave her original home to find her purpose in life," said Ballantyne.

"So I always thought, why aren't there Native people in these stories? We have such similar backgrounds."

Drawing inspiration from Superman and Batman, Ballantyne has created short films that feature female First Nations characters with superpowers.
Hazel Wallace as Eagle Girl from the Ballantyne's forthcoming film Eagle Girl. (Submitted by Sonya Ballantyne)

"I was getting so annoyed with how Native women were always portrayed on TV, if you'd see them on the news it was always sad stuff," she said.

"Well [I was] like, I'm going to give them all superpowers because that's how I see them, like that's how I see my mom, my sister, my grandmother."

For her first film, Crash Site, she took inspiration from Superman to create the character Maggie, also known by her super-powered alias the Thunderbird.
Poster for Sonya Ballantyne's film Crash Site, which features Maggie, the Thunderbird. (Submitted by Sonya Ballantyne)

"I created a character that I based around the question, what would Superman be like if he was a Cree girl?" Ballantyne explained.  

Ballantyne said her reason for making films is to create stories that Indigenous nerds can relate to.

"I originally started because I wanted to see these movies, and I was just doing it for myself," said Ballantyne.

She remembers showing her film Crash Site to a group of kids at a school in Winnipeg, and their reactions brought tears to her eyes.

"Seeing little Native girls and little Native boys coming up to me and saying, 'Are you going to make it longer? Are you going to make it a bigger movie?'"

"It was really cool to me to see that there are Native nerds. I'm still overwhelmed by the idea that I'm not the only one. It's now cool to be a Native nerd."