Innu Nikamu – A Festival — A Movie
October 10, 2017
"Innu Nikamu uses a peaceful message: song."
Kevin Bacon Hervieux, Innu
For Indigenous communities, festivals like huge loudspeakers that showcase the creative energy of First Nations and Inuit people. They provide a stage and a platform for young artists and the people who inspired them. They play a unique role in the reappropriation of Indigenous cultures and languages and finding the rhythm of an identity actively asserting itself and looking to express itself. They build bridges across rivers of indifference and prejudice and bring families and nations together for festive and unforgettable moments shared with people from all walks of life that are hungry for discovery. This is illustrated by Innu director Kevin Bacon Hervieux in his film Innu Nikamu: Singing the Resistance.
Transcript of an article published in the Culture booklet, section B8 of the newspaper Le Devoir, on Tuesday, October 10, 2017.
“Innu Nikamu”, the history behind an exceptional festival in Maliotenam by Caroline Montpetit
The narrative framework of Kevin Bacon Hervieux's documentary “Innu Nikamu”, expresses real facts. Furthermore, it discerns an impressive symbolic significance. The film recounts the history of the Innu Nikamu Festival, which has celebrated the culture of First Nations for 34 years in the Innu reserve of Maliotenam, on the North Shore. Since the beginning, this festival has taken place on the ruins of the Maliotenam residential school, built in 1952 and destroyed in 1970, after having housed thousands of children.
Until 2011, only the former shoemaker's shop remained, where the festival had established its offices. “After a while, we wondered why certain people never came to the festival,” says Kevin Bacon Hervieux, who’s also one of the organizers of the event. Shortly after the revelations of abuse committed at the residential school and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the festival team learned that many abuses had been committed in this very shoemaking facility during the residential school years. In 2011, the community burnt the building with tobacco, which has a sacred value in Innu culture. “People felt relieved”, says Kevin Bacon Hervieux.
The Innu Nikamu Festival stems from Florent Vollant’s collaboration with a few artists, who had gathered to perform on a small stage in Maliotenam. The gathering steadily took root in Indigenous community. Today, it welcomes renowned non-Indigenous artists, such as Simple Plan and, at an earlier stage, Blue Rodeo. The documentary explains how artists gradually returned to singing in Innu, while many had given up using their mother tongue. It was the singer Philippe McKenzie, introduced in the film, who paved the way for this trend which gave rise to the group Kashtin, which was a great success in the 1980s.
In an interview in the film, Florent Vollant also states that the growth of Kashtin's popularity was interrupted because radio stations boycotted the group during the Oka crisis in the summer of 1990. Even though the group had been going strong, it never recovered afterwards.
Since the beginning, the Innu Nikamu Festival has also had the distinction of being an alcohol-free festival, which sometimes complicates funding. One of the organizers explains in the documentary how he organized an illegal bingo night to raise financing, before being brought to court. The judge ultimately fined the festival $250, which he offered to pay out of his own pocket!
“Florent Vollant was very adamant that this festival be alcohol-free,” said Kevin Bacon Hervieux during the interview. The 25-year-old director also believes that if there had been alcohol, hence too much alcohol, the event would no longer be held today.
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