The Verzio audience had the opportunity to watch four of these films on 7 November in Budapest's Toldi Mozi. After the screening, Manon Barbeau, founding director of Wapikoni Mobile from Montréal, and the Canadian Ambassador to Hungary, Isabelle Poupart, held a discussion about the Wapikoni project and talked to The Budapest Times about the importance of fighting discrimination against indigenous people worldwide.

# "I hope the documentaries touched the audience and that the visitors discover parallels to their neighbours, with whom they live together in a society,” says Manon Barbeau, director of Wapikoni mobile.

The so-called "Wapikoni mobile" is, in fact, a camper in which indigenous people of Canada are being taught film-making. It was co-founded by the Canadian director Manon Barbeau, who was, by the way, honoured at UNESCO headquarters in Paris in2018, relating to the International Day for Tolerance. Since 2004, the mobile studio has offered training workshops in 42 aboriginal communities in Canada and 27 communities outside of Canada, for example Bedouin populations in Jordan and Palestine, Sami people in Norway and Syrian refugees in Turkey, for a total of 69 communities reached so far. The film-making motor-home project has produced several young talents, sent films to the Sundance and Cannes festivals, won a number of short-film prizes and been an official partner of UNESCO for a year now already. For the second time, Wapikoni mobile was featured in this year's Verzio film festival with one rather long film called "Encounter in Kitcisakik" and three short films, named "Volleyball – Finding My Balance", "Nitanish – To My Daughter" and "Wamin (Apple)".


A project in honour of a role model

The story behind Wapikoni mobile is a remarkable one, as the project has roots in a personal incident Barbeau had to experience. "From the beginning I was interested in the socially excluded and hassled," she tells. "In Canada, indigenous people are those most in need. Originally, I wanted to produce a different film, but when I arrived in Wemotaci, a reserve in Quebec, I met this girl, Wapikoni Awashish, who managed a workshop that teaches writing. She was a positive role model and group leader within her community.

"For two years I had been traveling to this tribe, the Atikamekw, and was working with Wapikoni and 15 other young people on a shooting script for a film called 'La fin du mépris', which can be translated to 'End of Scorn'.

"When they had nearly finished the project, a gruesome car accident caused Wapikoni's early death at the age of 20. "We could not finish the project because Wapikoni was supposed to play herself in the movie, and it would have been impossible for us in an emotional way, too," Barbeau adds.

In honour of Wapikoni, Barbeau decided to found the Wapikoni mobile along with the Council of Atikamekw Nation and the Youth Council First Nations of Quebec and Labrador in 2002, two years before the project officially started. "Back in those days we only travelled to five communes and only for two weeks, which, in hindsight, was clearly a too short amount of time," she says.

# After the screening of four Wapikoni films in Toldi Mozi, Canadian Ambassador Isabelle Poupart (middle left) and director Manon Barbeau (middle right) discussed the Wapikoni mobile project moderated by Ildikó Lázár and Péter Aradi from the Visual World Foundation

"I remember that our whole team slept, worked and ate in the camper; everything was happening in this narrow space. Imagine, the sound studio was in the shower!" Barbeau laughs. Today, Wapikoni mobile consists of five campers with professional equipment, and over a thousand films have already been produced by young people.


A tragic legacy

Basically, filmmaker Barbeau's top priority is to give indigenous people a voice. Some participants quite clearly have something to say about racism, the social ills of suicide and addiction, or the cultural traditions that communities are fighting to keep alive so that they might be passed on to future generations.

"Also, we work on developing their competences and their autonomy, we want to give them empowerment," says Barbeau, who moreover constantly encourages the young people to attend sessions of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous issues at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Ambassador Poupart adds: "According to the 2016 studies, more than 1.67 million people in Canada identify themselves as an aboriginal person, which equals to 4.9 percent of the Canadian population." In 2016 in Ontario, over a hundred people tried to kill themselves in only six months. In Canada, there are more than 630 First Nation communities, not counting the Inuit and the Métis, and they represent more than 50 nations and 50 indigenous languages.

"There is no doubt that there is a tragic legacy standing, and that colonialism, the paternalistic Indian Act and the system of aboriginal schools have led to acute socio-economic problems among indigenous communities," the ambassador recognises. "There is more and more of a recognition of past crimes that have been committed in Canada."

The government is working on solutions with two cabinet ministers: the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, who is responsible for the recognition of rights and land negotiations, and the Minister of Indigenous Services, who is working on socio-economic issues such as health-care, water and education.

Poupart notices that in recent years there is a much greater awareness of the need to help – not in an imposed way but in a much more cooperative, consultative way – the populations affected: "It may not be perfect but this is the direction in which we are going. The past cannot be erased, so it is important for the Canadian government to acknowledge what has happened and to not only apologise for it but to take measures."


Importance for Hungary and its minorities

The issues that aboriginal people in Canada still have to face may not seem at first to be important to people living outside of the country. However, in Barbeau's opinion this clearly is a topic that affects everyone everywhere and thus should be part of conversations worldwide. "There are disadvantaged ethnic populations all over the world," she says. "Personally, I think it is important to get in touch with those, reach a helping hand and give them a voice in their own countries."

Beyond that, Hungary is also in the focus of Wapikoni mobile. Last year the Visual World Foundation again displayed some of the Wapikoni films and organised a workshop called "Look Up and Speak Up!" for the first time, with the help of Ambassador Poupart. The workshop, based on the Wapikoni films, attracted more than 75 participants from different sectors such as educators and journalists, was designed to raise awareness and to create a collective reflection on the marginalisation of vulnerable people, especially in Hungary. The workshop continued at this year's festival, with discussions about how to adapt the Wapikoni mobile to Hungary and Hungarian minorities, such as Sinti and Roma.

# Isabelle Poupart, Canadian Ambassador to Hungary, notices that in recent years there has been a much greater awareness of the need to help indigenous people in Canada in a cooperative and consultative way.

As the Canadian Ambassador, Isabelle Poupart recognises the projection of Canadian values abroad as an integral part of her mandate. "Currently, the protection of human rights is an important foreign policy priority for us," she says. Based on the government's partnership with Wapikoni mobile and the Visual World Foundation, the message Canada tries to send is one of support for the ongoing reconciliation process between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians, she adds.

"It is also one of inclusion in the sense that inclusion is not given. It is something one has to work on to make it work. There is a reason why First Nations are called First Nations in Canada. It is because they were there first!"


Discovering parallels

So far, the Wapikoni mobile indeed has empowered numerous people of indigenous communities. One success story, for instance, concerns Kevin Papatie, originally from Kitcisakik in Quebec. He was among Wapikoni's first participants and distinguished himself as a director, cameraman, sound engineer, musician and coordinator. The dozen short films he has directed in the project have won several awards, including the Best Experimental Film Award at the 2007 Winnipeg Aboriginal Film Festival. The cinema became his main activity and he is still involved in several local and international events and festivals as a Wapikoni director and ambassador.

For Manon Barbeau it is important that the Wapikoni films leave an impression on the Hungarian audiences who saw this year's four films, of which one for example documents young Algonquin singers and filmmakers who were visited by the Wapikoni mobile.

"I hope the documentaries touched the audience and that the visitors discover parallels to their

neighbours, with whom they live together in a society," she says. "Furthermore, I hope that they get inspired to make their own contribution to fairer conditions in this world." Poupart agrees: "I wish that the visitors will get their own ideas about how the Wapikoni concept could be adapted to the Hungarian context. If the presentation has triggered some ideas for a cooperation between Hungary and Canada on that specific idea, I would be really happy."


You can find more information aBout the waPikoni moBile, the workshoPs, film-makers and music, and watch the documentaries via www.wapikoni.ca

To donate to wapikoni mobile, see www.actionwapikoni.ca

The international network of aboriginal audiovisual creation (inaac) was initiated by the wapikoni mobile and co-founded in 2014. It aims at encouraging exchanges on various film training methodologies while developing collective projects between members. Participants produce a short movie to one topic. These individual films are being put together into a full-length movie. The second movie ever made, for example, was about women. next year's topic will be the languages of aboriginal people in cooperation with unesco. Short documentaries from inaac can be watched via www.wapikoni.ca/inaac



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