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Courtesy Manifold Pictures

Local filmmaker showcases Métis heritage in new post-apocalyptic feature film at Plaza

By Rachel Woodward, April 04, 2017 —

When Benjamin Ross Hayden was a 19-year-old film student at the University of Calgary, he decided to become a director. Since then, he has created multiple films, and will debut his second directorial film, The Northlander, from April 7–14 at the Plaza Theatre.

Hayden says the film’s release is important because of its landscape and discussion of indigenous futurism.

“It’s interesting to have Canadian sci-fi that’s an indigenous futurists’ narrative really take route across the country with screenings,” he says. “The Northlander is rooted in some interesting Canadian history that has to do with my own identity and the Métis.”

The Northlander has received widespread positive reception since its creation. Vice named it one of “eight of indigenous cinema’s most important films” and the film was nominated for Achievement in Makeup at the 2017 Canadian Screen Awards.

Shot in Calgary, the film’s location is essential to the concept of land — a large theme in the story.

“The seams of my people have a lot to do with rebellion and having a land and a place to call home,” Hayden says. “The Northlander [is] also about a group of survivors who are trying to find a land to call home and they’re being threatened by oppressors that are bearing down on them. The hero, he has to go in search of an answer for his people to find a way for them to survive this. Louis Riel is the Métis hero that I based the protagonist on.”

The film will embark on a screening tour of six Canadian cities over the coming months. It will launch on multiple streaming platforms on May 1.

While the film depicts a world that is devoid of technology, Hayden feels that there are many filmmaking opportunities that come with the recent popularity of dystopia in pop culture.

“We live in [a] time where it’s the tech companies that are having a bearing on these human technological interactions.” Hayden says. “We need to be mindful [of] where we exist with these tools that start to define our social lives and the way we interact with other humans and the things that we start to value differently than we did 10 or 20 years ago.”

The Northlander stars various Canadian actors. Hayden says that he learned a lot about artistic voice and the power of creation through the filmmaking process.

He says his Métis heritage and desire to give a new perspective on historical events inspired him to tell this story that he felt was necessary to the community.

“Specifically to the Métis people, it’s incredible that now we’re finally seeing the great understanding of what has taken place across indigenous Canada in the past and also those historical moments where land was taken from other people,” he says. “It’s a very exciting time for indigenous stories to be told.”

The Northlander will show at the Plaza Theatre from April 7–14. Tickets are $7 with a valid student ID.

For more information visit thenorthlandermovie.com

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