Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
A film project that started out as a means to honour and remember an elderly family member ended up screened at the world’s largest Indigenous film and media arts festival.
Footage of the 18-minute documentary, titled NIMOSÔM – My Grandfather, was originally shot 10 years ago on Kehewin Cree Nation in Alberta.
The film begins with a pair of 14-year-old cousins, Layne YoungChief and Dylan John, being taught life lessons, including how to harvest a moose, by their then 83-year-old grandfather Gabe John.
In the film Gabe John talks about his experiences at a residential school. He also tells his grandsons the importance of being taught about their culture and their language and how to become men who become contributing members of their community.
Glen YoungChief (Layne’s father) is one of the producers of the film. The elder YoungChief is also the president of Achimok, a film, television and web content production company.
YoungChief said NIMOSÔM – My Grandfather was originally intended to be more of a keepsake for his son and Dylan John.
“Memories created out of this were for the family as well,” YoungChief said. “It’s also for everybody that knew Gabe and loved him.”
As a way to get some more recognition for Achimok, YoungChief said the film was submitted to several festivals in recent years, including to the imagineNATIVE Film & Media Arts Festival, the annual Toronto event which has become the largest Indigenous film and media arts festival in the world.
NIMOSÔM – My Grandfather was screened for the first time at any festival on Oct. 19 at imagineNATIVE.
The online portion of imagineNATIVE begins Monday (Oct. 24) and continues until Oct. 30. Tickets for the Big Stars program, which includes NIMOSÔM – My Grandfather as well as several other short films are available at https://imaginenative.org/events/program3-bigstars/
YoungChief was understandably thrilled his film was selected to be part of imagineNATIVE’s programming this year.
“We had sent this film in to them two years ago,” he said. “We didn’t make it into the festival that first year. But they called us this year and told us it would be in.”
Upon being notified of their festival selection, YoungChief said film representatives decided to shoot some additional footage.
Gabe John is no longer alive. And the two cousins featured in the film are now 24 years old.
“We just made sure we did a little update to it,” he said.
YoungChief said it only made sense to give viewers a glimpse into the current lives of the two cousins.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “They’ve grown up and as you grow you get into your own relationships.”
Besides their own families now, the cousins have new sets of friends and their own jobs.
“They still chum around every now and then,” YoungChief said. “They’re still close. But life happens.”
One constant, however, remains.
“Their love for their mosom doesn’t change,” YoungChief said. “That always brings them together.”
YoungChief added NIMOSÔM – My Grandfather is a film that can be enjoyed by all, even those who do not know the film’s two featured individuals or their late grandfather.
“I hope that they take away a bit of oral tradition and oral history and the fact we pass down things from one generation to another,” YoungChief said of those who will see the film. “In Gabe’s way he helped the boys. It’s who we are as Cree people.”
Bruce Giizhig Barry, the director of NIMOSÔM – My Grandfather, has known Layne YoungChief and Dylan John since they were newborns.
“Both are fine imperfect noble Indigenous men enriched by their grandfather’s teachings, as many Indigenous youth are,” he said. “This is a story of authentic oral tradition. It is a love story.”
Barry said that oral history and tradition are key parts of the foundation upon which Indigenous voice and survival thrives and nurtures future generations.
“NIMOSÔM – My Grandfather is one of those stories,” he said.
Barry said even though Gabe John was forcibly removed from his home and placed into a residential school, he chose not to be publicly bitter.
“He chose and shares with his grandsons tradition and peace of spirit,” he said.
Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.