Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Jules Koostachin had to check the dates on her calendar a couple of times before realizing that she had achieved a significant accomplishment.
Koostachin, a Cree writer/director, recently found out that her latest film, Broken Angel, would be screened at the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival (VIWFF).
The in-person festival, which features 37 films, began March 7 and runs until March 11. Following in-person screenings of the festival, there will be virtual festival screenings running from March 12 to March 25.
Koostachin was originally just happy her movie would be playing at the festival, which includes films from 14 different countries.
Her thrill level went through the roof after she checked the night her film would play. And then came a confirmation that yes, Koostachin’s movie had indeed been selected as the festival’s opening night feature.
“I think it’s cool,” she said. “It just means there is a need for this kind of story, especially an Indigenous story.”
Broken Angel is about a character named Angel, a Cree woman who suffers spiritual, physical and emotional abuse from her partner.
Angel is played by Nakota Nation member Sera-Lys MacArthur. In the film, her daughter Tanis is played by Brooklyn Letexier-Hart, who is a member of Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation in Manitoba.
Angel’s late mother Gracie, who is a spirit, is also featured throughout the film and she provides love and guidance for the mother and daughter to flee their abusive situation.
In her director’s statement for the film, Koostachin said she herself is a survivor.
“I feel like I have an understanding of that lived experience,” she said.
She admits it was difficult at times filming various parts of the film.
“It was challenging,” she said. “When I was at the women’s shelter, there wasn’t much reception to what was happening in our communities.”
Koostachin, however, is content with the final product of her film, especially because of the financial and time constraints that were faced.
“We shot that in 12 days,” she said. “I’m really happy because of its journey thus far.”
Broken Angel had its world premiere at the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival this past October in Toronto.
The movie was also screened at the Whistler Film Festival in British Columbia, which began in late November.
Broken Angel then had its European debut at a festival in Stuttgart, Germany last month.
The film is also scheduled to be shown at upcoming events in Minneapolis and Beverley Hills.
Koostachin, who was born in Moose Factory, Ont. and is a member of Attawapiskat First Nation in northern Ontario, said her film will also be broadcast on APTN in the near future.
Koostachin said Broken Angel is unlike the typical Hollywood movie as there is no savior who comes rushing in to assist a woman in trouble.
“She is not waiting for anybody to save her,” Koostachin said of Angel. “She is doing the work herself. No one is empowering her. She is empowering herself.”
Koostachin said she was keen to have her film made in order to get an important message about abuse against women out.
“This is still happening in our communities,” she said.
In her director’s statement, Koostachin said Broken Angel is an important story not only because of its truth but because she has a deep respect for women who continue to face adversity.
“It is NOT a fabricated or an imagined story of what some may understand surviving to be like, it’s a story full of resilient narratives, testimonies of women I have had the honour to share space with,” she said. “I feel a great responsibility to produce a film that is sensitive to the integrity of the lived experience of Indigenous women.”
Broken Angel is one of 13 Indigenous films that will play at the VIWFF.
Koostachin also has a second film, a 26-minute short, titled MisTik in the festival.
More information on all the in-person and virtual films is available at https://womeninfilm.ca/viwff/
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Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.