Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Cody Lightning’s directorial debut, a mockmentary titled Hey, Viktor!, had its Canadian premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, which concluded Sept. 17.
And it won’t be long before Lightning’s film is screened again in the country’s most populous city.
That’s because Hey, Viktor! has been selected as the closing night film for the 24th annual imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival.
In-person screenings for the Toronto festival will commence Oct. 17 and run until Oct. 22. The festival will then continue online from Oct. 23 to Oct. 29.
Hey, Viktor! is an exaggerated look at Lightning’s life. He’s a member of Samson Cree Nation in Alberta and has been an actor since he was five years old. His first role was in the 1993 TV movie Geronimo.
Five years later Lightning played a young Victor Joseph in an Indigenous comedy called Smoke Signals, which has become a cult classic.
In Hey, Viktor!, Lightning, who wrote, directed and stars in the film, is keen to make another movie in order to regain some recognition in the movie industry.
“Smoke Signals was the first movie where I saw myself on the screen,” Lightning wrote in the director’s statement for the film. “I want to bring that joy to a new generation. I want to show off the rez that I know— the raunchy humor, the goofy characters, the love and redemption.”
Hey Victor! is a catchphrase from Smoke Signals. Various snippets of that film are interspersed throughout Hey, Viktor!
“Some people have said they haven’t even seen Smoke Signals yet,” Lightning said. “But the way we did it (in Hey, Viktor!) we did a good job connecting it.”
Lightning is pleased he was able to make his mockumentary the way he wanted to. This includes plenty of foul language and scenes more suitable for mature audiences.
“I never thought once I was going too far,” Lightning said. “This is not a safety project.”
Plus, he’s hoping his film will prove to be inspirational.
“Other filmmakers, especially Indigenous ones, I want them to see how far I went,” Lightning added. “And I want them not to hold back on what they want to make.”
Unlike how his character is portrayed in the film, Lightning has worked steadily in the movie business since his debut in Geronimo. He has about 40 acting credits in films. And not porn films that he references to being in during a scene of Hey, Viktor!
Lightning said it was indeed a challenge writing, acting and also directing his latest film.
“I was in almost every shot of the film,” Lightning said, adding he couldn’t afford to stop and play back every scene. “It would have taken too long.”
So, he relied heavily on his assistant director and other producers for their input on whether certain scenes had to be redone.
“The whole film was shot over 21 days,” Lightning said. “We were pumping out 10, 15 pages a day.”
Lightning, who is 37, said about 15 years ago he originally thought of trying to make a Smoke Signals sequel.
“But it wasn’t until about five years ago that we pitched it as a short film,” he said. “And we got turned down. Comedies weren’t on the radar for funders.”
But Lightning didn’t give up hope and he eventually secured funding to make Hey, Viktor!
Other Smoke Signals cast members, including actors Adam Beach, Simon Baker and Gary Farmer, make appearances in Hey, Viktor! Canadian funnyman Colin Mochrie is also in the film.
Hey, Viktor! had its world premiere in New York City this past June at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival.
Besides TIFF and imagineNATIVE, Hey, Viktor! will also be screened at upcoming film festivals in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton. It will also be shown at several festivals in the United States as well.
Its rights were sold to Level Films, which will release the movie theatrically soon. It will also be streamed on Crave.
Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.