You’ve created a whole dystopian alternative world. Can you talk a little about how that came about?
Even though it’s set in an imaginary future in the year 2043, everything in the film is based on real historical policies that were inflicted upon Indigenous people in Canada. The conditions of the restriction of freedom of movement was something that [was created] when Canada and the US created the reserve system. [That was] also when it was decided who had status as an Indigenous person under the eyes of the Canadian government. There was a differentiation between who had citizenship and not, which is also an element in the world.
Then the virus element [in the film] was based on smallpox, which eradicated and decimated many Indigenous communities because of the lack of immunity. That happened in the 1700s, but it had a huge impact. I incorporated this virus element, which of course was pre-Covid, and now it’s kind of chilling to watch. I just created all of these conditions that actually had already happened.
Then when I imagined going into the future, I created a timeline that mapped out every election going 30 years into the future. What happened in those elections, what the reaction was. What led to a North America-wide civil war, and then what happened when there was a peace treaty signed for the war, and what the conditions were. Then I placed the characters within that world timeline and what had happened to them personally during those world conditions.
I was also really fascinated with elements of prophecy and taking from the stories of our ancestors. Tell me more about that.
Yes, I think that the stories in our communities and especially the stories that would be characterized as prophecy [are] just simply a part of our cultures. We have so many of those stories. The Anishinaabe talk about the Seven Generation prophecy. When I went to Standing Rock for research, they talked about the Black Snake prophecy, which was the snake that jutted across the landscape. The modern-day interpretation of it was that the snake was the [Dakota access] pipeline.
In our communities, we have certain elements of prophecy that are just a part of our cultures. I wanted to reflect that, but in a way that felt grounded and real, and that it’s just a part of life. To me, the prophecy is just very real to everybody in the story, and it’s not thought of as this big mythological thing, it’s just presented as the way things are.
The prophecy itself was something that I constructed for the story, but I loved it when Elder Pauline Shirt talks about the prophecy at the beginning of the film. I feel like it just sets and contextualizes things in such a beautiful way, and it makes the characters feel as though they’re all participants in a larger journey that goes beyond just them as individuals.