The filmmaker is of Cree/Ojibwe descent. In this short film she recreates her experience and what brought her to the sweat lodge with a metaphorical and poetic interpretation of this beautiful ceremony.
Interview with Writer/Director Kristin Snowbird
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
This is my first film that I was able to make through the Winnipeg Film Group's Mosaic Film Fund. It is the first time I applied to make something related to my interests in art. I always knew I wanted to create a work but had always been too terribly shy and self conscious. The Sweat Lodge Ceremony and everything to do with traditions in my culture had always interested me. So ever since I had attended my first Sweat I had always wanted to share the experience; I was always curious and asking questions about what could happen or hearing stories of the ceremony was always very intriguing.
I was always afraid to go in because I suffered with anxiety and afraid I might disrupt the whole ceremony if I wanted to leave while it was happening. So after many, many years I finally attended one and it was amazing. I made this film because I was finally given the confidence to not be afraid of myself and wanted to share the experience with others.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
I want the audience to feel my anxiety and I want them to see how I over came it. I set my mind to going into the Sweat lodge with the help of my daughter Zoe and with the confidence of my work family around me. I wanted to show her that although you have fears to never let them hold you back. I want to teach my children as I am learning myself that they have choices and see my choices but that they don't have to follow me, I just want them to be true to themselves like I had been. The choice to learn of my culture to help spread the knowledge of it and to help keep it alive.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
This film is so personal and was really hard for me to make. The whole process was scary but also very exciting. I had a very good team to work with and I think that really helps. I am very lucky to have such talented people so close to me. This made it easier to tell such a personal story. I think it's universal because it's about setting myself free everyone wants to be confident in themselves. I was always so scared of what people might think but I thought this is me and this is real; no more hiding.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
At first I only had the journey of myself going to the sweat lodge ceremony in my mind. There was no script I just knew I had this idea in my head. My drive out of the city; being around the structure of the sweat lodge and also the feathers flapping by my ear. This had the biggest impact on me. What or why was there this fluttering of wings flapping so close to me. I convinced myself to think it was a rattle. After the sweat I wondered if anyone else heard the flapping of wings. I wanted to ask the person sitting beside me but asked the person giving the sweat. He told me an eagle had come to me. An eagle is a symbol of love. What drove me to the Sweat came to me in the Sweat. The love to have for myself.
I had a very hard time with the narrative, actually the filming was done so quickly it was what I wanted to say that took the longest to finalize the film. Finally one morning I was out in my reserve Pine Creek First Nation and said ok! the filming is done we have all the footage we need I just need to record what I want to say. So I sat in my mom's room by myself and just spoke. I sent it to my cousin Kevin Lee Burton who is the producer of my film and he was ok! you got me this is it. He actually took most of that first recording that I made that morning to be in the film.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
So far I am very happy with feed back on the film. Although I think that sometimes people think that SWEAT may be about the actual ceremony or want it to be about that; it is instead of my personal journey. I do give an explanation of what a Sweat lodge ceremony is; a spiritual cleansing of the mind, body and spirit. It has sparked memories for some people of their own experiences and I am really happy that this makes them think of there own experiences.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
What surprised me in a very positive way is that people who have never attended a sweat lodge ceremony still have an immediate emotional connection with my movie. In one way that proves that the film that I did is reaching that universality that I am looking for when I create work.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
First of all the more people learn about my take on my own culture, the more I feel I am a significant part in making the history and tradition of my people visible.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
My work is distributed by Winnipeg Film Group, but I think more distributors the better, such as VTape in Toronto; as well I think will be important to have sales agents and buyers for my work.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
Although ceremonies are collective gatherings, the personal impact on oneself is major; what I try to do is to transfer, give to the viewers of my film that overwhelming feeling that one feels when is part of these ceremonies.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
Is a ceremony real or unreal; it exists in itself or is a constructed reality?
Would you like to add anything else?
The film is of my personal journey, I didn't focus on the actual ceremony. There is always two people involved in giving the sweat lodge ceremony. The person inside the sweat and the person outside of the sweat who is watching over the fire and heating the rocks that will make their way into the sweat lodge. At my first ceremony everyone who was taking part of the sweat took a handful of tobacco to pray with and than throw into the fire where the rocks were heating. We were than told a creation story and afterwards all entered into the lodge. Once we were all seated the rocks would be carried into the centre of the lodge. The rocks would have a piece of cedar dropped onto each of them.
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
The next short film I am developing at this moment is an animation of a children's song that is in my mother's language "Ojibwe/Saulteaux". I can remember the melody and the beginning of the song which is simply "Aniin, Aniin" and this means Hello. I want to make this short film because we are losing the language of our people. I find that the easiest way to learn a language is through song.
Interview: April 2017
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
Director: Kristin Snowbird
Producer: Kevin Lee Burton
Writer: Kristin Snowbird
About the writer, director and producer:
Kris Snowbird is an upcoming photographer and filmmaker of Cree/Ojibwe descent. Currently she is working at her first film The Sweat, funded by Winnipeg Film Group under thegrant for women artist Mosaic. She is also in the one year mentorship program for women artist, MAWA, working one on one with Natalia Lebedinskaia, Curator at Art Gallery of Southwester Manitoba.
Kevin Lee Burton is Swampy Cree and originates from God's Lake Narrows, Manitoba. Kevin is an award-winning filmmaker, programmer freelance editor. One of the main area in which Kevin has focused his artistic endeavors is to explain how “traditional” concepts can be coherently iterated within technological contexts.
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists): all of them.
Social media handles:
Facebook: Kristin Snowbird
Instagram: Morning Glory
Made in association with: Winnipeg Film Group, Mosaic Film Fund.
Where can I see it in the next month?