Northerners can look forward to a new motion picture exploring the strength of Indigenous culture and calling attention to systemic racism in the medical system.
She Gives Birth, a script for a short film to be co-produced by filmmakers Heather Heinrichs and Sadetło Scott, follows a pregnant young Métis woman who avoids being sent away from her community by seeking the help of a midwife. Heinrichs, a midwife by trade, explains that the protagonist wants to welcome her baby in the safety of her home, but is forced to brave the medical system.
The film was named the NWT winner of this year’s Northern Shorts Program, a contest run by Bell Media’s Harold Greenberg Fund (HGF). The program, launched in 2020, invites Northern filmmakers to submit scripts and one team from each territory is awarded $20,000 to produce their short film.
The duo plans for the film to be almost entirely in Cree or Michif to help promote Indigenous language and culture, and as an opportunity to learn some of the language themselves.
“Indigenous languages are threatened,” Heinrichs said, noting that some are on the verge of extinction. “Language and culture go together – you can’t really have one without the other.”
That’s why preserving and protecting Indigenous language and culture is so important, she said.
Both Scott, who resides in Yellowknife, and Heinrichs, a Hay River resident, are Indigenous– Scott is Dene and Heinrichs is Métis.
“We know that it’s really important to have a lot of different stories on screen so that a wide variety of audiences can see themselves represented,” Heinrichs said. “Especially when you have Indigenous filmmakers making films about Indigenous people, you get authentic representation. It helps share true-to-ourselves stories with the general public.”
The Northern Shorts Program came about through a collaboration between HGF members and the NWT Film Commission team at the Whistler Film Festival in 2019. Camilla MacEachern, promotions manager of the NWT Film Commission, recalls the partnership growing from a suggestion that the HGF create a program encouraging film production in the territories. MacEachern said the group was immediately on board and the organizations spent the rest of that year developing the concept for Northern Shorts.
“We are, up in the North and in smaller regions, under represented, and so this is an opportunity to carve out a piece of funding that is specifically going to NWT residents,” MacEachern said.
In addition to the funding, Scott and Heinrichs, along with the Nunavut and Yukon fund recipients, will receive guidance on producing their film. That mentorship piece, MacEachern said, is invaluable.
She said HGF is an important player in Canadian media and that the partnership “will push them forward in their careers.”
Presently, She Gives Birth is in pre-production. Scott and Heinrichs are working to translate their script and producing artwork to promote the film. Next, the pair will scout locations and put out casting calls. They hope to begin shooting when the snow returns in the fall. The film’s release is anticipated by 2022.