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Jarret Twoyoungmen: Stoney Nakoda’s next generation of artists, leaders and change makers

“We’ve actually been getting disrespected so many times from the non-Native people and we want respect. That’s how we want it actually with our films, our arts, and with our music.”

Jarret Twoyoungmen, Bearspaw First Nation, filmmaker

“We’ve actually been getting disrespected so many times from the non-Native people and we want respect. That’s how we want it actually with our films, our arts, and with our music.”

 

Jarret Twoyoungmen’s filmmaking is a deep artistic experience – passionate, emotional, and when so many films are synthetically limp, his storytelling can evoke a heart-rending punch felt in the chest.

When chasing inspiration about his next project, the sharp-witted filmmaker doesn’t need to look too far from home, either.

“We want to write about the experience on the rez,” said Twoyoungmen, using slang for the reserve. “I want to actually show the non-Native people, this is our story, this is our traditional culture details, not you. If you actually tell our story, that is something that is so wrong that they’re not capturing it the right way.”

Twoyoungmen is easy to like: personable with a fondness for comic books and horror movies, and like one of his favourite hip-hop groups, Wu-Tang Clan, Twoyoungmen is for the children.

In many cases, he’s like big brother to the kids on the reserve, and even had a few kids act in a fun, short zombie film. He loves to give back as much as he can to community and co-founded the arts collective Nakoda Audio Visual Club.

A continuous-learner of film, Twoyoungmen has adapted when needed as barriers in the form of affording equipment and education have popped up – it's the rez way, he said.

“You get everything done in the rez way and the Native way,” he said.

“There’s people – rich people – who always like to throw things in the garage that they don’t need … we reuse everything."

He’s collected buckets of used cameras and parts to shoot his vision, and has spent hundreds of hours watching YouTube tutorials on the cameras and filmmaking to megaphone his own Indigenous voice onto the screen.

Films he’s directed and created includer, Nadu (Hair), and the animation, North Peak, to name a couple.

A centre piece around Twoyoungmen’s resumé is Morning Star Îrha (Smile), a 10-minute short film about a young girl on the reserve caring for her siblings before her uncle and aunt take the family to their home.

It was written by Twoyoungmen and his partner Amanda Foote.

From first scene to last, the story smacks your face with a cold bucket of water, masterfully outlining an uneasy, yet powerful atmosphere of uncomfortable realism that commands an audience’s complete attention.

Winning an award at the 2014 ImagineNATIVE Film Festival, Twoyoungmen thinks Morning Star Îrha got him to where he is today.

“When I showed my family, my parents, they cried and they thought that was the most capturing-something movie they’d never seen before that’s happening today,” said Twoyoungmen. “A lot of people are still amazed by seeing that, every day.”

For one of his next projects, Twoyoungmen's working on a documentary about the McDougall Church, a nearly 150-year-old building near the Morley townsite in Stoney Nakoda that was burned to the ground in May 2017.

Standing outside the church, the buzz and cuts of power tools slicing wood echoes as a couple of workers put the final touches in a controversial restoration of the ivory church with a tall steeple.

In recent times, those passing by on Highway 1A use the church as a background for a pretty Instagram photo, ignorantly unaware of its history of both prosperity for white settlers and oppression for the Indigenous peoples.

Following the church’s original construction near Morley in 1875 came a residential school, an institute outright dedicated to erasing Indigenous culture. The malevolent reform centres are well documented as places where mental, sexual and physical abuse and murder occurred to Indigenous children.

Twoyoungmen has been keen in researching and unearthing histories about the McDougall Church, as his goal is to create a balanced film. Admittedly though, he’s nervous about how it will be interpreted.

“I want the truth, I want the answers, and hopefully [the film] answers a lot questions around for these people here that they have no idea,” said Twoyoungmen. “We want the truth. We want answers. We’ve actually been craving that for the last 500 years or maybe more.

"I want to see the creation of Indigenous stories they have, even the arts they have, because I want to actually talk about them. They’re the important ones and they’re the ones and they should be heard everyday."