News / Winnipeg

Aboriginal film festival 'optimistic' indigenous filmmaking on the rise

As the WAFF is plays this weekend, Nov. 24-27, event organizers say they've witnessed an increase in Indigenous films and expect the trend to continue.

A previous red carpet event at the Winnipeg Aboriginal Festival (WAFF).


A previous red carpet event at the Winnipeg Aboriginal Festival (WAFF).

Now playing: The 15th annual Winnipeg Aboriginal Film Festival (WAFF).

Coming Soon: More indigenous feature films.

Event organizer and documentary filmmaker Coleen Rajotte said the festival, which screens a wide selection of films, shorts and music videos made by indigenous filmmakers, has served as both the launching point and measuring stick for indigenous film in its 15 years.

“When we started we had four films in one day, and now, years later, we have about 50 films,” she said. “And what we’ve also seen is there are more and more indigenous filmmakers.”

According to Rajotte, attendees of past WAFF events increasingly return with their own productions.

“We’re proud we’ve showcased and helped the careers of so many filmmakers,” she said. “If we didn’t have the native film festival, where would people watch these works? We provide the venue with a big screen… audiences can come meet filmmakers, so that’s what it’s all about, bringing those filmmakers and audiences together.”

In some cases, WAFF has formalized its role as a catalyst for creativity.

Five years ago, organizers partnered with Argyle Highschool to help 20 youngsters make short films.

“Of those 20 kids, four of them have gone on to film school,” Rajotte said. “We have them as success stories in our program, telling their story about how WAFF mentored them to help them get their careers off the ground.”

Rajotte said the kinds of films WAFF screens have gone through “sort of an evolution” as more indigenous filmmakers are getting into “the drama genre especially.”

“People start out making documentaries, and then they slowly move into drama genre,” she said. “It’s harder to raise money to make drama, funding hasn’t been there, but that’s slowly changing.”

She said two feature films at this year’s festival were funded through programs that didn’t exist a decade ago, which is “really encouraging.”

With more funding available, she hopes movies like Whale Rider, a globally acclaimed indigenous-made film from New Zealand, will become more common in the near future.

“That’s what we want to see in Canada one day, where big budget films are made by Native directors,” she said. “We’re lobbying for more money to be directed towards indigenous feature filmmaking in Canada… that’s what we want to see and it’s going that way, so we’re optimistic.”

The WAFF is on this weekend, Nov. 24-27,  at Towne 8 Cinema. 

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