Montreal International Documentary Festival

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Surviving Violence - Nov 26 to Dec 2

Interview - Thirza Cuthand

Interview with Thirza Cuthand, filmmaker of Extractions, presented in the section Surviving Violence available from November 26th to December 2nd

Your film makes a sharp critique of Canada’s colonial extraction industry and the ways in which we all are complicit in resource extraction, what kind of response have you observed so far?

For the most part people have responded positively. I did show it as part of a larger trilogy in the Canadian Embassy in Berlin this past year at the Berlinale and it was interesting to see the reaction there. It's so critical of Canada's role in extractivist colonization, and yet people were still very excited and respectful to have it in the Embassy. I think it's also helped people talk to me more honestly about their own complicity in resource extraction, which has been a generative conversation to have I think.

This is a very personal film in which you also share about your process of having your eggs retrieved to make an Indigenous baby. Can you tell us more about your relationship to storytelling in this film?

Yeah, the follow up to that is that this year I tried to fertilize those eggs and it didn't take. So I am looking into the possibility of adoption. But then again that takes me to the other part of this film which is about how children have been extracted from loving Indigenous families to fuel the child apprehension industry in Canada. And I'm aware that I may end up being complicit in that if I am not careful. I think it's always risky when you talk about something personal like this, but on the other hand revealing those kinds of personal truths helps audiences connect to the word. I try not to be didactic in my work but obviously this video straddles that line. For that reason I revealed some vulnerable things about wanting children and what I was doing at the time to make one.

In Extractions, you hold space for the dilemma of holding hope for the future while also facing the harsh reality of the ongoing damage caused by resource extraction. How has making this film impacted you in your process of reflecting about this? What was the impact of this film for you?

I think I really interrogate my need for hope from time to time. It's been critiqued in society at large, that we shouldn't be hopeful at this point in human history considering all that is happening. On the other hand I am someone who has been battling serious depressions through most of my life and I've been conscious that not allowing any hope leads to apathy and a lack of will to live. And maybe it's strange but I do want us to live another day. I think hope helps keep the door open to actively seeking solutions to these problems. Hope is a driving force in environmental protest movements. I think we'd just be sitting at home if we don't have it. Personally this film has made me feel like at least I can use my filmmaking skills to call awareness to these issues.

Can you tell us more about your process between recording the narration and choosing the images for the film? How did one influence the other?

I recorded the narration before I chose the images. I think I mostly wanted to get a selection of resource extraction images, and then some public domain footage of uranium mining and egg extraction procedures. The fertility mixing and shot was my own footage though. It took a long time to shoot the shot properly because I had to set up the camera alone and also do the shot by myself. In some ways that underscored the difficulty in my fertility journey where I was trying to work on making a baby alone, with no partner. A bit of a side note, I noticed during that process I started referring to myself as "we" more often than "me," even though it was really just me. It's over now but I keep using we and I just say it's about me and the dogs but I think there's still this ghost family I am thinking of when I refer to myself.

Are you working on any new projects at the moment that we should be looking out for?

I'm just finishing post on a short film called kwêskosîw (She Whistles) which is about a Cree woman who gets into a cab and finds herself in a dangerous situation, but is saved by harnessing a supernatural power. It's my first film with a full cast and crew, so it's been a big learning experience but I really feel proud of it so I'm excited to put it out into the world early next year. Aside from that I am hopefully finishing the feature film script Evil Fire which the short is based on, and if all goes as planned we'll be applying for production funds for that next year. People have been excited about the project so I'm hoping we get the financial support to make it a success.

Presented in same section

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