Media arts training helps empower communities to tell their own stories

Monday, December 12th, 2022 3:52pm


Image Caption

Our World mentor Lisa Walker with Youth filmmakers Elle Brown and Latoya Windsor. Photos courtesy of Lisa Walker.


“We're moving more and more into the world of using your phone. A lot of the images that are being used in the films are from their phones that they’ve already taken.” — Our World mentor Lisa g Nielsen
By Odette Auger
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Our World began in 2006 as Our World Languages, a National Film Board funded project, with Bianchi Hanuse (Nuxalk) operating the film-making company out of her home community of Bella Coola in B.C.

The concept was to bring film equipment into Indigenous communities and help participants tell the stories that they wanted to share, with a focus of making films in each Nation's own language.

In 2009 the NFB stopped taking part in the project, so a group of filmmakers came together to continue the work.

To have it stop was a shock, said Lisa g Nielsen. “We were building relationships.”

Our World will go multiple times to the same communities to build those relationships and film-making skills.

“And we know that takes years,” she said.

The project has inspired a new generation of artists. So far, 200 films have been made with 16 different communities.

For Bella Bella, B.C., Our World was back in the community in December for the fifth time.

Artist Lisa Walker has returned to mentor her third workshop. Walker is Haisla through her father, and grew up off reserve, a bit removed from her culture. She said mentoring in Heiltsuk territory, so close to her own home territory, helps deepen her connection.

“Every time I come here, I find more relatives,” she smiled.

Similarly, the youth she works with connect to the mentors each time they visit, and the skills develop more with each workshop.

“We like to be here for almost two weeks, sharing meals together. We really get into the community, which is awesome,” Walker said.

“We bring the tools and equipment, but the youth really lead what they want to do. Whether that’s comedy or being passionate about their culture.”

Accessibility is a big part of the workshops, Nielsen said.

“In this community, we're starting to edit on DaVinci, which is a free editing program. So they're learning on a program that they can download themselves. Every community's different, but some communities buy the equipment and then it's there for them to use. Sometimes we bring it. Sometimes it's a combo of both.”

But, having expensive equipment is not a barrier.

“We're moving more and more into the world of using your phone,” said Nielson. “A lot of the images that are being used in the films are from their phones that they’ve already taken.

“You can make a film right now and it can be shown in festivals right now. Our World submits to festivals and then a hundred per cent of the streaming fees get funneled directly to the artists. And sometimes they travel to the festivals, representing their film, and they get to be there as artists.”

Some of the youth in Bella Bella have attended all four workshops over the years.

“We have two youth here that are 19, 20 years old. Now they feel like peers. And they pick up the editing skills so fast,” Nielson said.

Latoya Windsor
Latoya Windsor films in the Big House at Bella Bella, B.C.

Latoya Windsor, (Heiltsuk) made her first film with Our World when she was in Grade 7. She’s now 19 and making her fourth film, switching from a student participant to a helper now that she’s finished school.

She was 10 in October 2016 when a tugboat pulling a fuel barge ran aground spilling diesel into Heiltsuk waters. Windsor was out on the water, helping with the spill, defending the land and waters. Her artmaking speaks out against injustice, accompanied by a strong sense of Heiltsuk values and identity.

“I grew up with my father telling me never to be afraid of what's going on in your heart, or what's going on in your mind,” said Windsor. “Always speak what you believe in.”

Taking Back Our Power is the working title of the film participant Elle Brown, (Heiltsuk) is working on. Her films have explored language revitalization, impacts of residential schools, tools to cope with depression, and the pride of 14,000 years of culture.

“Don't ever be afraid to show and tell everyone who you are and where you’re coming from,” Brown said.

To learn more about Our World go to Our World (

Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.