A short film made in Thunder Bay with the help of a few graduates from Confederation College’s film production program is making the rounds of film festivals all over Canada.
Braided Together tells the story of Autumn and Tenaya, two teenage girls, one black and the other Indigenous, who bond together over their personal issues.
“It’s a story where, at the beginning, one’s going through grief, one is going through a little bit of loneliness and friendship really supports them at the beginning,” co-director Kyle Schmalenberg said. “But, over the course of the film, it becomes about the importance of the friendship,”
Victoria Anderson-Gardner, who co-directed the film, says that she relates to the story of Tenaya, and was excited to set the story in Thunder Bay for personal reasons, as well as the hope of bringing further stories to the city.
“I'm from the north; I grew up in Thunder Bay and then I moved to my reserve and then moved away and then moved back to Thunder Bay, it’s this whole story,” she said.
“We thought it was important, the setting, in regard to having it be Anishinaabe girl specifically and also because we actually hope to shoot a feature film eventually and so it was kind of this, almost like an experiment in a way to see how we can film up in the north.”
Schmalenberg has his own connection to Thunder Bay and was equally as happy to be able to explore a place from his family’s history.
“Interestingly enough, my mother was the first black baby born in Thunder Bay and at the time, I think it was just called Fort William,” he said.
“Wild right? And that's the first time I've been to Thunder Bay, but it felt like sort of like a homecoming because of all the stories; both my mom and my dad lived there while they were children.”
While the film itself is receiving praise on the festival circuit, Anderson-Gardner says that what they’re really happy about is the attention their other programming is receiving.
“We have our other programming running alongside our film called the Creative Sovereignty Lab,” she said.
“A part of that was bringing on apprentices who were from the north specifically because we wanted to bring in Indigenous youth who have never had a chance necessarily to be on a phone set like that before.”
Schmalenberg says it was a great pleasure to work with the apprentices and he was gad to be able to share his own knowledge of filmmaking.
“Our goal, which is why we involve the creative Sovereignty Lab and this mentorship, was that we wanted to leave behind something,” he said.
“We wanted to leave behind people with knowledge of this production so that they could carry on and do other productions for themselves after we were gone, we wanted to leave people with connections and relationships and things like that.”
After the film’s festival run is completed, it will be available to view online and Confederation College said it will work to promote the film and share the link to view, once available.