By Hannah ManyGuns
CALGARY – At just 25, Siksika-goo-wan filmmaker Trevor Solway has directed, filmed, edited, and produced seven of his own short-films. Receiving his certificate in Indigenous Independent Digital Filmmaking from Capilano University, and a bachelor of Communications from Mount Royal University, his extensive education has strengthened Solway’s natural knack for story-telling.
“I started off as a creative writer. That was really the only outlet I had, because you only need a pencil and a paper to do that, and, when you’re from the rez and you don’t got a lotta’ money, that’s all you need.”
But when he picked up a camera for the first time at age 20, suddenly everything started to click.
“Once I broke down what it was, the components of it, and how to use it, the limits were just endless,” he beams, “Film’s my preferred medium of choice.”
Solways most note-worthy film to date, Indian Giver, was shot in Siksika and tells the tale of a father who’s been absent for 15 years, and tries to get back into his families lives. The 10 minute film offers an distinctive narrative on parenting, from an Indigenous perspective.
“Our parents, you know, they learnt how to be parents from residential school survivors. They didn’t always have the greatest examples. If we’re going to move forward as Native People, we need to be able to forgive each other, forgive our parents, and show some grace.”
The film’s cinematography is a prize for the eyes, along with great performances by all actors involved. Solway says he couldn’t have made a film like Indian Giver without his mentors’ guidance, and credits his professors and friends at Capilano University.
“I went to an all Indigenous film school. We had a class called Indigenous cinema, and I learned a lot. You know, Native People were some of the first people to be documented on film. We were in those nickle machines that Thomas Edison made, where these flashing images shown in black and white, and in one of them, there were these Indigenous tribes doing their ceremony. So we’ve been at the forefront of film for a long time,” notes Solway.
“But, in the earlier days of film, Indigenous people weren’t portrayed the right way, and what that’s resulted in is a complete uneducation of North America. A lot of non-Indigenous people had the idea that natives were primitive, not caught up in society, second-class, and that we were these blood-thirsty savages they seen in Western movies. That’s not the case. We’ve been vastly mis-represented in films. And, you know, I think that’s just because Native people aren’t making, or aren’t put in positions, to make films. When you go back to when we had all of these big up-and-coming filmmakers learning their craft, like Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino, Native People couldn’t even gather in groups of five. When the potlatch and Sundance ban happened, the Canadian government didn’t want Native people getting together to practice their ceremonies. If you can’t even practice your ceremonies, how could you even make a film? These are the kind of ideas we explored in Capilano.”
Solway strives to carve out opportunity for up-and-coming indigenous filmmakers by being a mentor himself. In partnership with Canada Bridges, he has been running youth film camps for the past four years, with the camps taking place in Morley, Siksika, and Calgary.
“I’m just trying to give that opportunity that I never had. When I was young I’d see filmmaking workshops, but they’d always be in Calgary. And it wasn’t possible for me to go to that when I was a kid. So now, when I put up these film camp posters, I take pride that it says: ‘Location – Siksika’. It gives the youth a chance to tell stories. That’s the goal of these film camps, to create that new wave of young Indigenous filmmakers, and get cameras into their hands a lot younger than I was.”
Solway is currently in post-production for a docu-series called The Intertribal Series. Created in partnership with CJSW, “this series profiles four indigenous artists from Treaty 7 area,” explains Solway.
“We have Armond Duck Chief, Darcy Turning Robe, Bebe Buckskin, and Olivia Tailfeathers.” Viewers can expect the series to be screened in Calgary in the coming months.film, Filmmaker, Indian Giver, Trevor Solway