RIDM 2018 Review: Turning Tables

Joshua DePerry in his dance costume, from the documentary film Turning Tables.

Joshua DePerry is a multi-talented guy. As the synopsis for Turning Tables says:

“In his hometown of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Joshua DePerry is known in the Anishinaabe community as a colourful ‘fancy dancer’ who impressively integrates contemporary dance moves at traditional pow wows. In Toronto, he is known as Classic Roots, an up-and-coming music producer and DJ who blends Indigenous sounds with modern techno and house music.”

Turning Tables shows DePerry strolling around the reservation, greeting friends and neighbours and showing kids how he works the turntables. We see him recording music in Toronto, performing in full regalia for a rapturous club audience, and dancing in a subway station. (“Nobody stopped him!” director Chrisann Hessing marvelled during the Q&A.)

I enjoyed Turning Tables immensely even though I don’t like techno. At just 16 minutes long, it left me wanting to know more about DePerry’s life and future achievements.

Turning Tables ends with DePerry about to go to Berlin. Hessing said that he did indeed go there, and that he’s there right now, already on his second visit to that city. She did film him going to the airport, but in the end she decided not to use that footage. She didn’t go to Berlin with him, either, because she felt that might intruding on his first-time experience there.

Hessing met DePerry in 2015 and since that time “We actually can’t stop working together. We’re continuing our collaboration.”

That collaboration includes a music video and the Turning Tables Tour which will take them the film and DePerry’s DJ equipment to a series of reservations.

Joshua DePerry shows his DJ equipment in the documentary film Turning Tables.

“Joshua’s story is exemplary in that he has proven through his musical career, ambitions, and simply through his existence, that it is possible to come out of a place of limited opportunity and create a successful and fulfilling life.”

“The tour is designed to bridge the gap in accessibility between Indigenous Youth and role models like Josh. The communities we intend to visit include remote areas with lack of resources. . .”

That quote about the Turning Tables Tour comes from the film’s excellent web site, which is bursting with information and high-quality photos. Bravo for that!

Turning Tables is being shown at RIDM, Montreal’s documentary film festival, along with two other shorts. Teta, Opi & Me, by Tara Hakim, is the love story of her Austrian grandmother and Arab grandfather. Dreaming Murakami, directed by Nitesh Anjaan, is about Mette Holm, the Danish translator of the Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami. It’s 57 minutes long.

Turning Tables
Country : Canada
Year : 2018
V.O : English
Duration : 16 Min
Cinematography : John Minh Tran
Editing : Ryan J. Noth
Production : Tanya Hoshi
Sound Design : David Hermiston

Turning Tables
Friday, Nov. 16, 2018, 8:15 p.m.
Cinéma Du Parc – Salle 3
3575 Park Ave, Montreal, QC H2X 3P9

Visit the RIDM web site for more information about the festival.

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/258122843″>Turning Tables Trailer</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/chrisannhessing”>Chrisann Hessing</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Cinema Politica: After the Last River explores Attawapiskat’s troubles


The northern Ontario town of Attawapiskat has been in the public eye a lot over the last few years, because of its housing crisis. Victoria Lean’s documentary film, After the Last River, provides a much deeper look at the situation than you’re likely to get on a nightly newscast. The stories that she tells would be interesting (and distressing) at any time, but they are particularly relevant now, as the federal election gets nearer.

Lean visited Attawapiskat for the first time in 2008. She tagged along with her father, ecotoxicologist David Lean, who had been invited there by the Cree community to share his expertise. De Beers had just opened a diamond mine in the area and residents were worried that this would lead to an increase the already high mercury levels in the local fish that were part of their traditional diet. That’s exactly what did happen.

Canadian diamonds are marketed as ethical, in contrast to “conflict diamonds” or “blood diamonds” from Africa, but an article on the Mining Watch Canada web site says “There are no clean diamonds. Exploring for them, digging them out of the ground and selling them requires sacrifices from the natural environment, from the wildlife and fish that live on it, and from the Aboriginal people who depend on it. . .The federal, provincial and territorial regulatory frameworks in Canada are inadequate to protect the environment from long term and cumulative environmental effects.” (The film informs us that the federal government weakened environmental protection legislation when it passed Bill C-38 and C-45.)

An aerial view of the Attawapiskat River community.
An aerial view of the Attawapiskat River community.

Victoria Lean returned to Attawapiskat several times over the next five years. She began making a film with an ecological focus, but as she explains in her director’s notes, “it expanded to the community’s rights to education, healthcare, housing and a clean and safe environment. One of the goals of the film is to draw attention to a number of intersecting challenges.”

Among the things we learn in After the Last River: In the 1970s and 1980s, the federal government built homes with substandard materials, and that housing has deteriorated further since then. Many homes do not have running water; residents use buckets for toilets. Some homes are plagued with black mould. In 1979, 30,000 gallons of diesel leaked under the elementary school, which remained in use, despite bad smells and students complaining of headaches. The school finally closed in 2001, and the students were moved into portables, right next to the toxic site. They had to wait until 2014 for a new school.

Relatively recent news clips from Parliament and the Ontario legislature show that both levels of government are adept at playing the old “it’s-not-my-department” game. It’s truly maddening to watch those clips, after seeing the terrible conditions that people are living in. Old news clips shot in the north show that little has changed in decades.

Residents discussing their situation with Lean say that “People in the south think that we own diamonds and we’re rich. They don’t know what’s happening here.” “We’re not rich; it’s just the land that rich.”
The mine has not improved the lives of the people of Attawapiskat. In fact, it looks like the mine has only brought benefits to DeBeers and its immediate employees.

Amazingly enough, the amount of royalties paid by DeBeers to the Ontario government is confidential. However, through diligent digging, the CBC discovered that: “the provincial government made more money on salt royalties in 2013-14 than diamonds. De Beers Canada, which owns the only diamond mine in the province, paid $226 in royalties while salt netted the province $3.89 million in royalties.” “. . .De Beers paid little or nothing for most of the seven years its Victor mine has been in production in Northern Ontario, about 90 kilometres west of Attawapiskat.”

De Beers is said to have its eyes on 15 more diamond deposits in the area.

After The Last River
Victoria Lean / Canada / 2015 / 86 ‘ / English
Monday, Sept. 28, 2015, 7 p.m.

Concordia University
1455 de Maisonneuve West, Room H-110
Montreal, QC

Director Victoria Lean, producer Jade Blair and special guests will be in attendance. The screening is co-presented with the Sustainability Action Fund and Mining Watch Canada. The venue is wheelchair accessible.
For more information visit Cinema Politica’s Facebook page for this event.