By Thomas Johnson, July 20 2018 —
“I think often filmmaking only happens in these hubs — Hollywood, Vancouver, Toronto, New York. A lot of us native people, we’re rooted in our ancestral homelands. That’s where we draw our strength, our identity and ultimately our stories,” says Blackfoot filmmaker Trevor Solway. “It’s sending the wrong message to a young filmmaker saying they need to go Los Angeles to make it.”
A member of the Siksika-goo-wan Tribe, Solway has, since returning from the Indigenous Digital Filmmaking school at North Vancouver’s Capilano University, maintained a keen interest in tapping into his culture’s tradition of homegrown storytelling. Now he’s in the midst of mining that culture’s proverbial goldmine.
“Why can’t we make it here? Why can’t we create stories here? That’s the power from where we’re drawing these stories from,” Solway says. “We’re sitting on a goldmine of stories here in Alberta and Treaty 7. Why not have them here?”
Since 2017, Solway has developed eight individual film camps for Indigenous youth across Alberta as part of the Canada Bridges social development initiative. In addition, he has helmed seven short-films of his own, including the critically acclaimed Indian Giver (2016).
“I’ve always been a super creative person and just felt that need to tell stories. When I was a little kid, I grew up on a reserve and didn’t have a lot of resources so I’d write a lot — writing short stories and letting my imagination go wild,” Solway says. “When I got older and went to university, I started exploring different mediums of telling stories. I came across filmmaking, started finding out the ins and outs of a camera, sat down and started the process of filmmaking. It opened up this floodgate of creativity from me.”
In October, Solway released TRENCH, a docu-short concerning Michael Mountain Horse — a Blackfoot veteran of the First World War — and the art he created upon his return from battle. In the film, performance artist and fellow Blackfoot Adrian Stimson Jr. gruellingly recreates the titular trench.
“I was asked to do the video for Adrian as he was digging the trench. He dug the trench for five days. Wake up at sunrise, pray, start digging, pray again at sunset, go to sleep and do it again. In May the sun rises at five in the morning, doesn’t set ‘till 10. One day I stuck it out with him, and it came periodically over the five days,” Solway says. “You see the land wake up. You see the sun, then you hear the birds and the insects, gophers and whatnot.”
Looking forward, Solway’s momentum shows no signs of lagging. Having received funding to produce up to three films, Solway launched the Napi Collective, which aims to provide proper resources to aspiring filmmakers on reservation.
“Napi was our trickster. There’s tons of Napi stories my grandparents would tell us. He’s the ultimate storyteller,” he says. “It’s a space on the reserve where we can come together as filmmakers — of all ages and experience levels — to tell stories.”
For more info head, to imaginenative.org/trench/.