New series hits close to home for creator Jennifer Podemski

Monday, May 15th, 2023 2:54pm


Image Caption

Darla Contois (left) stars as Bezhig Little Bird/Esther Rosenblum in Little Bird. Lisa Edelstein plays Golda, Esther's adopted mom. At far right is a photo of Little Bird co-creator and show runner Jennifer Podemski.


“…it’s an exquisitely beautiful series that enriches our lives and our understandings of ourselves in the way that all great art enriches us.” — Adam Garnet Jones, director of TV content and special events for APTN
By Crystal St.Pierre
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Little Bird, a six-part limited dramatic series, will air on APTN Lumi starting May 26.

Set within the Sixties Scoop era, Little Bird tells the story of one family’s trauma, resilience and discovery of Indigenous culture.

The first episode introduces a loving family with four happy children living on the Long Pine Reserve in Saskatchewan.

Viewers soon learn, however, there is an unspoken fear that the family lives with daily. They have “practiced” what they should each do if strangers come around their home.

The kids have hiding places in and around the house, and must stay completely silent when strangers are near, no matter what they hear or see.

As the show progresses, the focus turns to one of the Little Bird children who is stolen from the family at the age of five.

Bezhig Little Bird becomes Esther Rosenblum when adopted into an affluent Jewish family in Manitoba.

Fast forward and Bezhig is a young woman with a successful career as a lawyer, yet she yearns for the truth behind the memories that haunt of a childhood before her adoption.

“It’s a fictional story about true events,” said co-creator and show runner Jennifer Podemski. “It was specifically brought to me about an Indigenous girl who is adopted into a Jewish home in Montreal, because there were a lot of Indigenous adoptees during that time in Montreal who were adopted into Jewish families.

“Because I am Native on my mom’s side, and Jewish on my dad’s, Rezolution Pictures thought I’d be interested in that story. So, that basic concept was brought to me and I just built the whole narrative around that idea.”

Podemski had such a strong insight into that diverse cultural experience that she felt the project fit her own objectives of “telling Indigenous stories through an Indigenous lens.”

She was especially drawn to the concept of Little Bird, because of her own upbringing in a family where her grandfather was a Holocaust survivor, and her other set of grandparents were Residential School survivors.

“It is really the closest thing to me that I have ever done. Even though I’m not adopted, those are my two worlds. Those are the exact worlds I grew up in. And it was the perfect way for me to dive into something in a very personal way because I’ve never really explored both of those sides of my family,” Podemski said.

“So, there is a lot of personal stuff in there. Although it’s not my story, it’s a completely fictional story based on the events during that time,” she said.

In total, this series took six years to complete and was co-created with Hannah Moscovitch, with episodes directed by Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers and Zoe Hopkins.

It stars Darla Contois, alongside Lisa Edelstein, Ellyn Jade, Osawa Muskwa, Joshua Odjick, Imajyn Cardinal, Mathew Strongeagle, Eric Schweig and Michelle Thrush.

“First of all, it’s an exquisitely beautiful series that enriches our lives and our understandings of ourselves in the way that all great art enriches us,” said Adam Garnet Jones, director of TV content and special events for APTN.

He said APTN was the ideal home for Little Bird.

“APTN wants to show as many sides of Indigenous stories, histories, lives, and experiences as possible. The experience of having our children taken away by the state, of having our families targeted for assault by the police and government, is something that many of us share. When we read the scripts for Little Bird, it was clear that we needed to play a part in telling this story in a way that gave care and respect to the children and families who are impacted by the Sixties Scoop, and the ongoing theft of Indigenous children from their families.”

Another aspect of the show is the parallel drawn between Holocaust survivors and the attempted genocide of Indigenous peoples.

“I come from a Holocaust survivor grandfather and Residential School grandparents,” said Podemski. “I’m in a mixed family. I have two siblings and we are all very, very close, and I just think it’s very important to me and my family … So at the centre of this story, it is about family and finding your way back to home and back to family, and I think that’s a theme that I’m very close to.”

She said Little Bird provided an opportunity to address the parallels, the common ground, of different people. “It’s not an outward comparison in any way, but a gentle parallel to consider what these people are each contending with.”

The series will run an episode per week starting May 26, and Podemski hopes it reaches both Indigenous and non-Indigenous viewers.

“This is a story not many people know about… I want to reach the hearts and minds of Canadians and people around the world who have never been introduced to this story and these experiences that are so tragic and persistent within our communities.”

Visit APTN for more information on how to view Little Bird.

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Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.