Film, a Form of Social Protest: Jeff Barnaby

On April 14th, the well-known First Nations filmmaker, Jeff Barnaby, came to St. George’s school to share his thoughts on being a witness to the conflict between the Canadian government and First Nations people. Mr. Barnaby has won several film awards such as the “Best Director of a Canadian Film” at the 14th Annual Vancouver Film Critics Circle Awards. He is recognized for using gore and violence in his films to symbolize the suffering of the Canadian Aboriginal people.

The Creed caught up with Mr. Barnaby during his visit to a Social Studies 10 class:

How do you feel about the relationships between First Nations and the Canadian government as of right now?

“There is no relationship between First Nations and the government. They (Canadian Government) are ignoring the First Nations. The problem with that is how the [Canadian Government] is partially responsible for the spiritual/mental state in a lot of the First Nations people. The history of colonization and residential schools, not to mention the social problems like missing aboriginal women and social issues, which can be at least addressed by the Canadian government, are ignored by the government with flat-out zero interest. There is no relationship.”

How do you feel about racism and stereotypes?

“I don’t take it to heart. You can’t. It becomes soul pressure. So, I just dismiss it as opinions of idiots and use it almost as a fodder for humour. It’s so stupid that it can’t be anything but funny. Rather than empowering the person who is speaking ill of either the race or religion, I choose to devalue everything they’re saying by not taking them seriously. At this point, I think it’s (racism) not even conscious anymore. Now, nine times out of ten, people are being racist just to ‘troll’ you. You almost have to have a mantle of indestructible armour and not take them seriously.”

What would you suggest to people that want to become filmmakers? Any specific tips?

“Step number one, familiarize yourself with the Canadian Grant System. Familiarize yourself with becoming a really good writer, or get to know somebody who is a really good writer. Study art in all its forms, not just film. Everybody thinks that becoming a good filmmaker is just watching good films. But, it’s a combination of all the art forms and the more you understand them, including the roles on set, cinematographer, and production designer, the better suited you are to execute what you have in your head. Basically, learn everything, all the time, as much as you can.”