VIDÉOGRAPHE AT 50: Innu Nikamu: Resist and Sing by Kevin Bacon Hervieux
On June 2, 2019, the documentary Innu Nikamu: Resist and Sing won the Iris award for best documentary film. Young Innu filmmaker Kevin Bacon Hervieux became the first Indigenous artist to receive this award. On the occasion of its 50th anniversary, Vidéographe wishes to highlight this achievement and the importance of a film that explores the culture and recent history of the First Nations.
The origins and evolution of the Innu Nikamu Music and Aboriginal Arts Festival are intimately linked to the territorial roots of the Innu people and to the life of the Maliotenam Reserve community. For centuries past the Innu had followed a seasonal migration cycle, wintering in the northern territories for the caribou hunt and returning every summer to the north shore of the St-Lawrence. Festivities, meetings, traditional games and weddings marked the latter period, and the Festival has become the modern day reincarnation of the ancient summer celebration.
In more recent times Maliotenam was host to a government imposed residential school program that left an indelible scar on the community. At the school’s closing the buildings were demolished and buried in a field which was to become, a decade later in 1985, the site of Innu Nikamu. Through the music which has accompanied the Innu throughout their history, director Kevin Bacon traces the fabulous story of the founders, musicians, artisans and collaborators who ignited the hope of a community in distress, and dared to believe that the re-appropriation of their culture and their language was not an impossible challenge.
Interview with Kevin Bacon Hervieux
Why the subtitle 'Sing and Resist'?
Traditionally, singing, music and dance have always been vehicles for storytelling and self-expression. In an effort to reclaim their identity after leaving residential schools, many aboriginal people learned to play instruments such as the guitar and, inspired by rock, folk and country legends from the 1960s and 1970s, would sing their demands, breaking away from the dominant Western way of life. Music as a means of expression is still just as important to aboriginal peoples, and the festival is a considerable megaphone.
What role does the festival play in the Maliotenam community?
The Innus, like the majority of nomadic peoples, went back up the rivers at the end of summer for hunting and returned to the coast at the end of spring. The summer season was a period of large gatherings of families and communities. Innu Nikamu was established to recreate this type of intercommunity celebration, which had disappeared with the industrialization of the land, in the guise of a music festival. For Maliotenam, it is a contemporary version of the greatest ancestral Innu traditions.
Tell us about the experience of shooting your first film.
It was a delicate yet educational experience. The shoot was ab- solutely fantastic. That said, the film required considerable investment beyond just its production. Being a member of the festival team, I had to make a very truthful portrait of my own achievements, my responsibilities, my joys and disappointments, and those of my friends and colleagues. As the film addresses a num- ber of delicate and controversial subjects, it was imperative to tell the story with the necessary patience, sincerity, and humanity. The long post-production process led me to reflect on and understand things in my own family and personal life. I was also determined to make the people of my community proud at the end of the day. Beyond the project’s challenges, I learned a great deal and met some extraordinary and dedicated people. I am also aware of how lucky I was, having had no experience, to be able to visually record a story that I had been thinking about for years.
Interview Vidéographe, 2018.