In honour of National Indigenous History Month this June, we reached out to three influential Indigenous filmmakers, all women, to ask them all about film and Indigenous storytelling, cinematic inspiration, and more. Following this previous article, which celebrated National Indigenous Peoples Day (June 21) here is the second half of their super interesting answers.

Sonia Bonspille-Boileau is an award-winning Mohawk filmmaker whose projects include her 2015 feature debut Le Dep (supported through Telefilm’s Micro-Budget Production Program), as well as her documentary about the 1990 Oka Crisis, The Oka Legacy. She’s currently working on a new film, Rustic Oracle.

Zoe Hopkins is a B.C.-born Heiltsuk/ Mohawk filmmaker whose feature Kayak to Klemtu just had its Canadian theatrical release May 25th. This debut follows shorts and docs including Mohawk Midnight Runners and the 360 project Impossible to Contain.

Danis Goulet is a Saskatchewan-born Cree/ Métis filmmaker (and TIFF Canadian features programmer) whose shorts include the award-winning Wakening and Barefoot. She’s currently working on a new feature, Night Raiders.

If you could give a message to your younger self about working in this industry, what would it be?

You can only speak for yourself so be true to your own voice.
Sonia Bonspille-Boileau

Sonia Bonspille-Boileau: “Trust your gut and be true to yourself. You can only speak for yourself so be true to your own voice. I’m only starting to realize that now, as I get older. When I started working in the industry I was trying so hard to please others and struggled a lot with feeling like I didn’t belong anywhere (being from two different cultures). I have learned to get rid of the guilt and shame, and embrace my multiculturalism for what it is. And my perspective is a valid one. So I would tell myself to stop caring so much about what others think.”

Danis Goulet: “Be kind to yourself. Failure, missteps and rejection can be so discouraging but are a part of the process. It’s so important to be gentle with yourself when mistakes are made. I was so lucky to discover the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival shortly after I moved to Toronto because community and peers have been the most essential support for me when it comes to being in this industry for the long haul.”

It’s so important to be gentle with yourself when mistakes are made.
Danis Goulet

You learn to make films by making films.
Zoe Hopkins

Zoe Hopkins: “You learn to make films by making films. Your films will turn into opportunities to see the world. The sooner you get started, the sooner doors will open. You want to be a filmmaker? Make a film. The world is full of ignorance. Make films. For every disappointing or abusive person in this industry you come across, there are two more who want to help lift you up. Make films.”

What films have inspired/touched you?

Zoe Hopkins: “I was so inspired by Waru, an omnibus feature film made in New Zealand by eight Maori women. It’s innovative storytelling. It’s a technical feat. It’s an emotional journey to watch. I’m also fired up every time I see Alanis Obomsawin’s Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance. I’m inspired by the work I see programmed at imagineNATIVE, the world’s biggest International Indigenous film festival, based in Toronto.”

Sonia Bonspille-Boileau: Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance by Alanis Obomsawin. Definitely a game-changer in my life. Coming from that community and seeing how Mohawk people were portrayed in the media during and after 1990, I felt crushed. But then watching Alanis’s film and seeing that filmmaking could bring out the “other side” of things… I just knew then and there that’s what I wanted to do.

“Other films… The Piano by Jane Campion. Probably the first film that made me realize that cinema was not just entertainment. It was also art. Dancer in the Dark, Lars Von Trier. Only film that had me sobbing to the point of having no more tears left in my body. Incendies by Denis Villeneuve. Still haunts me. Boy, by Taika Waititi. Honest, funny, heartwarming, original, relatable. Rhymes for Young Ghouls by Jeff Barnaby. What a powerful film. Being in a packed theatre and witnessing people’s reactions was when I realized that there was indeed space for our stories in the wider cinematic landscape. And, I can’t deny it, The Wizard of Oz. This film created such inner struggle when I was a teenager. I truly love the movie. Travelling so far only to realize everything you need and want is right at home. I can relate to that. Also, the men in that film can’t do anything without women taking control. Dorothy isn’t waiting around for a prince. I love that. But digging into the book and its author as a teenager was my intro to colonialism and genocide. Frank Baum (author) was an awful man who called for the annihilation of the Sioux Nation. For years I felt conflicted when watching the movie. I still loved it but carried guilt in doing so (even though Baum had nothing to do with the movie). So in that sense, it is definitely a film that had a long-lasting impact on me.”

Danis Goulet: The Journals of Knud Rasmussen by Zacharias Kunuk and Norman Cohn. Although Kunuk is known for Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, his second feature is an absolute masterpiece. It chronicles a shaman at the time that Christianity was coming to Inuit communities — a critical and turbulent moment in history. Kunuk’s brilliant portrayal of the natural and supernatural forces as interchangeable absolutely floored me the first time I saw it and the final scene in the movie is among the most powerful I’ve seen on screen. And Maori filmmaker Taika Waititi’s Boy, about the life of a young Maori boy in 1980s rural New Zealand who is obsessed with Michael Jackson.”

Thank you to these three wonderful filmmakers, Danis Goulet, Sonia Bonspille-Boileau and Zoe Hopkins, for sharing their thoughts with us!