Published in Windspeaker newspaper | November 22, 2012 | Circulation: 145,000
Filmmaker Alexus Young’s face transforms from anxious – the result of the week’s struggle with a noisy and insecure housing situation in one of Toronto’s poorest neighbourhoods – to a sly grin when Windspeaker approaches.
We had interviewed her at a policing conference several years before for an earlier article in this publication , but today the subject is filmmaking. In particular the Métis woman’s ImagineNATIVE film festival short film, “Where We Were Not Feeling Reserved.”
The film uses surreal animation style mixed with shaky, collage-style archive footage to tell Young’s harrowing story. Throughout, snowflakes fall heavy across the screen. Young appears in drawn form. Starry, enthralling winter skies are prominent.
We walk to Toronto’s Allen Gardens, where an 80-metre mural is underway by Indigenous painters, depicting various creation stories and traditions. Nestling confidently on a park bench, Young excitedly discusses her screening. In some ways, her own journey as a filmmaker echoes the artists nearby sharing the story of their cultures, painting scenes in hopes of creating some spark of inspiration in others.
“People are curious and want to know,” she said, brushing her long hair out of her eyes in the breeze. “That’s really encouraging.
“As long as there are people out there who want to listen and hear my story, I will gladly tell it. I’ve gone through so much in my lifetime that I consider myself a survivor. For me, the social aspect of everyday living–everything from trauma to addictions to mental health–it’s a passion for me because I have a mentality where if I can help just one person, it’ll all have been worth it.”
Young is a survivor of the infamous “starlight tours” or “midnight rides” whereby Saskatoon police officers abandoned Native men and women outside the city limits in sub-zero winter temperatures, often stealing their shoes and forcing them to walk home in the snow.
The all-too-common occurrence in Saskatoon – also reported in several other prairie cities–blew up into national scandal in 1990 with the death of Neil Stonechild, a 17-year-old Cree teenager who froze in -28C temperatures from the practice.