The Cleveland International Film Festival promotes artistically and culturally significant film arts through education and exhibition to enrich the life of the community.
April 12, 2018 | posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers
According to co-director Adam Mazo, “Dawnland” reveals the untold story of how generations of Indigenous children have been taken from their families and cultures and the historic investigation into this devastating practice.
Audiences will see the first government-sanctioned truth and reconciliation commission (TRC) in U.S. history which ran from 2012-2015 in Maine. The film centers the testimony of Wabanaki people impacted by the child welfare system.
Initially, he was shocked and angry that so many Native families had been broken up by the State.
“I felt like this story has to be shared to prevent these atrocities from continuing,” says Mazo. During the filming, he admits, he was moved by the courage of the Maliseet, Micmac, Penobscot, and Passamaquoddy—“people who courageously spoke the truth on the record to the commission. Witnessing this testimony in person reinforced the responsibility we as filmmakers have, to make sure that Wabanaki peoples’ stories are widely seen and believed.”
Co-director Ben Pender-Cudlip, explains that the film is about state agents targeting specific families and deliberately breaking them apart. “‘Dawnland’ tells a human rights story that is broadly relevant to many ongoing conversations in our society,” he says. “It is also a call to action, especially to those of us who are non-Native, about how we can support Native-led movements.”
“I hope viewers will walk away feeling deeply impacted by the courage of Wabanaki people to share their most intimate stories,” says Mazo. “I hope viewers will see this as a wake-up call and transform that into action to honor and acknowledge Native peoples and their land.”
As a call to action, the co-directors recommend that viewers will support the National Indian Child Welfare Association in their essential defense of the Indian Child Welfare Act.
Here’s more from the co-directors:
Mazo: “In this era of fake news we need truth tellers and the Wabanaki people featured in “Dawnland” should be role models; indeed they are upstanders who speak out to prevent injustice by speaking the truth.
“While these truths are difficult and often painful, the Wabanaki peoples’ choice to share their stories represents an incredible moment of hopefulness, we believe, for Wabanaki people and all Native people,” he continues. “Native peoples are so frequently historicized that we need contemporary stories that affirm the strength, independence, and vitality of Native communities. The truth commission in Maine is an historic and contemporary event that can and should be a model for other much needed truth and racial healing efforts in the U.S. and in other countries grappling with colonialism currently.”
Pender-Cudlip: “This commission’s mandate instructed them to investigate one specific issue (the implementation of of the Indian Child Welfare Act between 1978 and 2012) in one specific state (Maine).
“Clearly we, as a nation, have a lot more work to do,” he says. “This commission is an inspiring start, and we hope that ‘Dawnland’ helps other communities design their own truth-telling, restorative justice, and decolonization processes.”
Mazo: “I hope that CIFF audiences will learn that the Wabanaki people are survivors who are their contemporaries living across the dawn land (Maine and Atlantic Canada) today. I hope CIFF audiences will see that Wabanaki people have been incredibly courageous in opening their hearts and sharing their stories.
“We hope ‘Dawnland’ can help show CIFF audiences that there is a path toward healing and perhaps even reconciliation through truth-telling, authentic listening, and acknowledgement of past and current harms.”
Pender-Cudlip: “I hope Indigenous viewers will feel that their stories are being told. I hope they will see themselves in the people on screen and feel represented, heard, and honored. It’s a big dream, but we hope that ‘Dawnland’ can in some small way provide a shared cultural affirmational moment in much the same way that Black Panther has done for so many Black people around the globe.
“We hope Indigenous people will feel strengthened by seeing other Native people speaking truth, being empowered and having self-determination and how this leads to great things being accomplished.”
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