By Julia Magsombol 

Local Journalism Initiative 

[email protected]

They say that movies are special as they deliver hope to the audience. This is the goal in mind for Carrier Sekani Family Services (CSFS) as they ??seek expressions of interest that highlight the stories of Indigenous women across Canada.

“We’re looking to make beautiful, creative mini-documentaries that will share some life lessons and cultural practices,” said Matt Smiley, a film director and producer who has been collaborating with CSFS for almost 10 years.

Smiley has also worked with Mary Teegee, the Executive Director of CSFS, who has been one of his longtime producing partners. They first started their collaboration on Highway of Tears, a documentary film produced in 2015 that screened all over the world and aired on Netflix.

Once again, Smiley and Teegee are teaming up again to produce another impactful project with CSFS next year. He noted the cross-country project will be a series of mini-documentaries focused on Indigenous women. 

The series is called We Are Hope, We Are Strength. CSFS has received funding from Women and Gender Equality to create this meaningful project.

CSFS and Smiley want to showcase the lives of Indigenous women — where they feel they have been successful. The films will showcase messages of hope and strength, and will share their culture and traditions.

They are also open to sharing their stories of violence and discrimination and how some have helped themselves to change that. 

The series will feature the artistic beauty of Highway 16 — the Highway of Tears. According to CSFS, this may be to respond to the calls for justice and challenge [the audiences] to think: What will I do to be a part of the change?”

“We’re looking for storytellers and filmmakers from all walks of life that have a very strong vision — maybe something within their community where they would want to showcase their stories of strength and hope, with a spotlight on Indigenous women within their communities,” said Smiley. “Who has inspired them in their lives? Where do they get their strength from?” He explained they are not only considering women’s work on this project but also from men, who empower and help women to make changes in their communities. The project is also open to LGBTIQA+ for submissions. “Collaborating with CSFS for many years now has always been an eye-opening experience. It’s beautiful to see how much growth has been there and to witness how much improvement we can see within the communities and they service,” Smiley said.

“On this project in particular, what I do love is to witness first hand the evolution of progress. I started my journey with Highway of Tears. To see that we’re veering towards the Highway of Hope and focusing on stories of hope and strength is inspiring. We can never forget what happened in the past and cognizant that women & girls continue to go missing, but I’m happy that we can showcase the beauty of Indigenous culture. The next generation has the opportunity to thrive under the guidance of their elders and community leaders who have worked tirelessly to ensure their culture can be enjoyed by future generations.”

Smiley and Mary Teegee also produced the award winning film For Love, narrated by Shania Twain which is currently streaming on Netflix. The film received many positive reviews and feedback.