On Aboriginal-ness for sale
How many times has a “Hi, I’m an Italian-Canadian,” turned into a history lesson by that person in which they are expected to launch into a complex account of the history and differences of experiences for all Europeans who came to the Americas? Yet, for Aboriginal people, saying “I’m Cayuga”, or “I’m Innu” or “I’m Dene” to non-Aboriginal people is invariably going to turn into a most basic, “Well, there are three Aboriginal groups in Canada, the...” lesson. And if ever you have to say that you’re Métis, well, forget it, it’s going to be a nightmare to make it through: “There are historic Métis communities and the Métis were born from…” I couldn’t help but to play this aspect up as ridiculous and comedic in the film, because when you get Aboriginal people together we certainly laugh together at it all.
It was fun to exercise, through Ray’s character, the fears and demons of the journey and struggle to make art about Aboriginal subject matter. There is a history of non-Aboriginal people cashing in on the “hotness” of Aboriginal stories and/or funding opportunities. Similar to Ray’s ultimate discovery, my take on it is that if art is motivated by and for money invariably that comes through and the work feels flat, be it a TV show, film, or painting. Yet if it is coming from a desire to truly express and experience what it means to be Aboriginal for a particular person in this particular time and place, that work to me is important; it’s not about showcasing your Aboriginal-ness for sale as some romanticized Hollywood notion.