By Scott Christensen, September 22 2017 —
The Calgary International Film Festival kicked off with a premiere of When They Awake at the opening gala on Sept. 20.
When They Awake is a documentary about Indigenous Canadian musicians with a focus on contemporary music spanning from hip-hop to blues to electro-pop. Though mainstream genres are covered, the film also celebrates traditional Indigenous music.
Traditional Inuit music is notably prevalent in When They Awake. Much of the film focuses on Inuit throat singers and the mainstream success of the singers included in the film, including Tanya Tagaq.
The film explores themes that have arisen because of the loss of culture occurring amid Inuit people, discussing the importance of revitalizing their culture and traditions before.
Considering the subject matter, it is necessary to discuss the detrimental impact that colonialism continues to have not only on Inuit culture and society, but on all Indigenous peoples across Canada. The film does a good job of handling this, providing significant time for the subject of colonialism and cultural genocide. However, the main goal of When They Awake is to celebrate the resilience of Indigenous musicians.
The film discusses the place Indigenous music currently has in mainstream music consumption, presented with the intention of exposing non-Indigenous people to a culture and style of music they might not have otherwise heard.
When They Awake is exceedingly interesting when it looks outside of the traditional scope of Indigenous music, shining a light on Indigenous musicians making contemporary forms of music with a uniquely Indigenous style. A Tribe Called Red and Leela Gilday are among the artists featured in the movie.
When They Awake screens again on Oct. 1 at 1 p.m. at Cineplex Eau Claire. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $13 for students and seniors. Tickets are available online.