Indian Horse director says Richard Wagamese novel was cinematic, poetic

Thursday, April 12th, 2018 5:41pm


By Windspeaker Staff,
With files from Dustin McGladrey of CFWE-FM

Indian Horse director Stephen S. Campanelli was in Edmonton last night at the screening of his film Indian Horse at City Centre Landmark Theatres. He took part in a question and answer period after the film was seen.

Commenting on his cast, he zeroed in on the little boy, Sladen Peltier, who was just nine years old when he played the role of a young Saul in the film. He had never acted before the movie, yet he was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor at the Canadian Screen Awards in 2018.

Peltier lives in Ottawa, and is from Wikwemikong Unceded Territory on Manitoulin Island in Ontario.

“He’s an incredible hockey player,” said Campanelli. “Imagine being on set with a hundred people staring at you… to give that performance, for a little kid like that is unbelievable."

Campanelli said he was incredibly lucky to get such a cast, including Edna Manitowabi, who was the Elder on the set, and who played the grandmother in the film. It was also her first time performing in a movie.

Manitowabi is also from Wikwemikong, and founder of the annual Aboriginal Women’s Symposium at Trent University. Manitowabi is head woman for the Eastern Doorway of the Three Fires Midewewin Lodge and known nationally as a traditional teacher, ceremonialist, and drum keeper.

“Both of them steal the movie,” said Campanelli. “They are the heart and soul of this movie.”

About Richard Wagamese, the author of the book, Indian Horse, the novel upon which the film is based, Campanelli said “This is Richard’s movie.” Campanelli kept a copy of the novel on set all the time.

“I had yellow highlighted all the passages for each scene,” the director said. “What that scene meant to him.”

Campanelli said there was an insane amount of knowledge that is out in the world about the residential school atrocities that are central to the film and the book. He encourages viewers of the movie to go and research more about the subject.

“That’s the most valuable thing that could happen,” Campanelli said. He would like to see a conversation started. He said a good start would be to go to There you can find out where the movie is screening, and how you can get it into your community and see all kinds of materials about the project.

The producers plan to provide the movie to teachers and educators across the country. It will be in schools as a companion piece to the book. He said it’s so important to read the book and have your own mind to create the vision.

Campanelli said he saw Wagamese’s book as very cinematic and poetic.