Have a seat. Sabe will put the kettle on. Vancouver-based filmmaker Amanda Strong tells us about her new short film, Biidaaban (The Dawn Comes). (Courtesy of Spotted Fawn Productions) Last Friday night in Toronto, Amanda Strong walked the red carpet with the two stars of her new film, Biidaaban (The Dawn Comes) — likely the only stars at the festival who arrived at TIFF in a carry-on bag. But for a couple of puppets, Biidaaban and Sabe have been around.
They just finished an appearance at Wanuskewin Heritage Park in Saskatoon, and before that the characters — along with sets from the Michif director’s other stop-motion films — were part of the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s Insurgence/Resurgence exhibition. Now finally, after two years of production, the 19-minute film is making its screen debut, and the result is a tale of magic and resistance. There are no words that can express how grateful I am to this beautiful human @leannesimpsonmusic. Thank you for trusting me and my team. I’m excited for us to share Biidaaban through our practices. The gift is in the making. 💙 #Biidaaban #thedawncomes #premier #shortfilm #community #kwe #sabe #cariboughost #process #sharing #tiff2018 #indigenous A post shared by Spotted Fawn Productions (@spottedfawnproductions) on Sep 12, 2018 at 2:37pm PDT Based on stories and poems by acclaimed Indigenous writer/musician Leanne Betasamosake Simpson , the action takes us to an ordinary Canadian neighbourhood (somewhere in Peterborough, actually), where Biidaaban and Sabe have a secret mission. An Anishinaabe artist and a beyond-ancient shapeshifter, respectively, they’re tapping the neighbourhood trees, harvesting sap like their Indigenous ancestors did for generations — but unlike those who came before them, they’re forced to sneak out in the middle of the night. The trees that once belonged to the forest now grow on private property, but the duo is guided by spirits of animals who used to roam there (a ghost caribou and ghost wolf) while they work.
Like Strong’s past animated shorts — including a couple you can watch now on CBC ( Four Faces of the Moon and Flood — the storytelling has a loose, dreamlike quality, though the piece itself raises a variety of current issues: land development, displacement of animal populations, reclamation of Indigenous ceremonies and practices.
Before the film heads to Festival Stop Motion Montreal later this week and the Ottawa International Animation Festival (Sept. 26, 29), Strong talked with CBC Arts about the origins of the project, how Simpson’s writing was the catalyst for the film and how the world of Biidaaban (and her other animated movies) takes on another life when it goes "outside the screen" and into art galleries. How did the project begin?
Well, it’s something that started about two and a half years ago.
I’ve worked with the writer Leanne Simpson before. We did a piece, How to Steal a Canoe , from one of her audio tracks. And she has this poem called "Caribou Ghosts and Untold Stories." It’s actually in the film — it’s what bookends the beginning and the end.
I was just haunted by the combination of "ghost caribou." Immediately, that puppet was in my mind. That character. I was just picturing this horrifically beautiful ghost animal. (Courtesy of Spotted Fawn Productions) And I talked more with Leanne about it. What does this mean to you? What is behind the ghost caribou, or caribou ghost?
So she was explaining that the caribou have lived in southern Canada, or southern Ontario, in the past and they’ve been removed from the land or extinct from southern parts of Canada.
I know it’s not exactly the same as the bison or buffalo […]
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