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Four brothers — and their Cree-speaking puppets — show the silly, joyful side of Indigenous life. “We grew up watching The Muppet Show and Fraggle Rock and Sesame Street and all those characters. I was always looking out for a native puppet, and I would never see one.”

It started with short skits to entertain friends and family.

Before long, the Bigetty brothers had gone viral, with tens of thousands of video views on social media and requests to perform from communities across Western Canada.

Their show? Four puppets — Marcel, Baptiste, Michel and The Chief — each with their own personality. They might remind you of the renowned Muppet or Sesame Street franchises, but with one distinct difference: these puppets are clearly Indigenous. And they seem to have minds of their own.

The hilarious antics of these little dudes revolve around everyday occurrences in their community, their wit and charm on display as they slide back and forth between English and Cree. When they aren’t hamming it up in front of a cell phone camera for an online video, they’re getting a smile-a-second from kids at school performances.

When the brothers take their show on the road, they’re treated like rock stars: the puppets are mobbed by children and elders stop to talk to the Bighetty brothers, engaging with their puppet alter egos. Most have never seen a puppet that looks like an Indigenous person before.

The Bighetty brothers were born with the gift of humour. Led by Russell, the eldest brother, they created characters based on what they saw around them in their own community. It wasn’t long when they realized that having the puppets speak Cree would be a fun way to help engage children in learning the language.

Tragically, Russell passed away in the spring of 2018. In this documentary, brothers Ken, Andrew, Kelsey, Dan and Russell explore the deep wound of Russell’s death, but also their determination to keep the joy of their performances alive. Rather than sadness, the surviving brothers choose a legacy of love and laughter while passing on their language.

One of the most overlooked things in Canadian society is how joyful and fun-loving Indigenous culture is. This story shows how the infectious power of laughter can change lives.

Credits (Click to expand)

Produced by Andrew Wiens & Sam Karney
Directed by Andrew Wiens & Sam Karney
Written by Andrew Wiens
Script Consultant: Ryan Wilson
Researchers: Andrew Wiens & Sam Karney
Director of Photography: Sam Karney
Camera Operators: Rudy Gauer, Andrew Wiens
Edited by: Rudy Gauer
Graphics: Jessica Libby
Audio Post Production: Chris Gaudry
Colourist: Sam Karney
Business Affairs and Production Accounting: Colleen Alksnis
Corporate Accountant: Marlene Gurney
Legal Affairs: Paul Popeski

Produced in Association with CBC
General Manager, Programming - Sally Catto
Executive Director, Unscripted Content - Jennifer Dettman
Senior Director, Documentary - Sandra Kleinfeld
Senior Director of Production, Unscripted Content - Alexandra Lane
Executive in Charge of Production, CBC Docs - Lesley Birchard

For CBC Manitoba
Iris Yudai - Executive Producer
Doug Holmes - Executive Producer
John Bertrand - Senior Managing Director, Prairie/North Region
Deanna Williamson - Regional Controller, Prairie/North Region

Music provided by:
APM Music

“The Pukatawagan Song”
Written by Sidney Castel
Performed by Bighetty & Bighetty
© Rig Publishing (Sunshine Records)

Special thanks:
Ken Bighetty
Kelsey Bighetty
Daniel Bighetty
Andrew Bighetty

In remembrance of Russell Bighetty

Ice River Films

Manitoba Film & Music
Produced with the participation of the Government of Manitoba - Manitoba Film and Video Production Tax Credit administered by Manitoba Film and Music

Produced with the participation of the Canadian Films or Video Production Tax Credit (CPTC)

© Copyright 2019 7440449 Manitoba Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

CBC Docs