December 8, 2019

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Comedy, drama and much more at WAFF

Annual film festival offers a plethora of genres


In its 16th year, the Winnipeg Aboriginal Film Festival (WAFF) is offering up a mixed bag of comedy, documentary and drama over four days.

But it kicks off Thursday, Nov. 23 at 7 p.m. with the crossover appeal of a concert mixed in with a screening, all courtesy of New Zealand country music artist Donna Dean, the subject of the festival’s opening night film The Sound of Her Guitar.

Directed by New Zealand filmmaker/musician Bill Morris, the film explores Dean’s troubled past with violence and addiction while following her on tour in the American Southwest.

Flying in from NZ, Dean will introduce the film as well as serve in the prestigious role of keynote speaker, shared in the past by WAFF notables, such as Gordon Tootoosis, Tantoo Cardinal and Adam Beach.

"It’s the first time we’ve had someone from New Zealand open the festival," says WAFF’s artistic director and co-founder Coleen Rajotte.

"Her music is on the dark side, but it has a message of healing and how to get through these issues," Rajotte says. "She has a great story, and she’s going to perform opening night so people will get more bang for their buck.

"Not only will they get to see a great movie, they’ll get to see a great performance by an Indigenous artist," says Rajotte. "That’s kinda cool."

Supplied</p><p>Sound of Her Guitar</p>


Sound of Her Guitar

Rajotte herself has a documentary screening at the festival of interest to historians, anthropologists and maybe foodies. Mysteries Beneath: The Story of First Nations Farmers (Saturday, Nov. 25 at 7:30 p.m.) is a record of a Lockport archeological dig that proves Indigenous peoples were engaged in farming as far back as medieval times.

"I’ve been talking for years with Dr. Leigh Sims, an archeologist at the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature, about doing an archeological dig in Lockport," says Rajotte. "And we raised the money to do a dig there for 30 days in June of 2016.  

"We were able to uncover evidence of First Nations farming 400 years prior to European settlement," says Rajotte, who became obsessed with the subject in conjunction with her work producing and hosting the APTN series Vitality Gardening. "This is evidence that we were not simply hunter-gatherers, we farmed on a large scale basis. "

Later Saturday, at 9 p.m. sees the Winnipeg première of Indian Horse, an acclaimed dramatic adaptation of Ojibway novelist Richard Wagamese’s book by director Stephen S. Campanelli. 

It tells the story of Saul Indian Horse, an Ojibwe, from the shores of the Winnipeg River, separated from his family by the residential school system, which threatens to destroy him before he discovers a gift for hockey.


For the complete list of films at the Winnipeg Aboriginal Film Festival, log onto

Twitter: @FreepKing

Randall King

Randall King

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

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