Susap: Keeper of Knowledge is the first documentary to kick things off on Feb. 3

By Chadd Cawson Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The countdown is on for film buffs. The fourth annual Invermere Film Festival runs from February 2 to 5 at the Columbia Valley Centre (CVC). It will offer a little more this year than just feature films and documentaries. The festival will be selling passes to see all seven films for $35 and individual film tickets for $10. When purchasing tickets online, festival goers will have the option to donate to Mountain of Hope.

“We’re doing a lot of new stuff this year,” said Bill Johnston, festival organizer.  “On Feb. 2, we will be showcasing the best films of the B.C. and Alberta filmmaking competition. It was open to all B.C. and Alberta amateur or seasoned filmmakers. Over 100 entries were received.”

Aspiring filmmakers should check out the free Filmmaking 101 workshop at 9 a.m. on Feb. 3 before the movie magic begins later that afternoon at 4 p.m., with two powerful documentaries on Indigenous role models, Robert Louie Sr. and Buffy Sainte-Marie.

“We will always have strong and truthful Indigenous films that come up, and we will always be looking for them. We’re thrilled to bring Susap to Invermere,” said Johnston. 

 Filmmaker Dan Caverly’s 2022 documentary Susap: Keeper of Knowledge will be the first film of the festival; it shows at 4 p.m on Feb. 3. For as long as he can remember, Caverly has always been a storyteller and has done so professionally in radio, TV, and film. In August 2021, he was approached by the Lower Kootenay Band in Creston to see if he would take on telling Robert Louie Sr.’s story. 

Susap Keeper of Knowledge is my first film of (this) kind.This was first I had heard of it and of course said I’d be honoured to do the film,” said Caverly. “What a compelling and amazing story to be told! We knew we were running out of time because Robert’s health was failing. I started planning immediately, with the first order of business being to make Robert feel comfortable in telling me his story on camera.” The film tells Louie Sr.’s story as Leader, Elder, and residential school survivor. Through his seven decades of life experience it unveils some of his challenges, his victories, and the spiritual guidance he found along the way. 

“I learned a great deal throughout the process about the travesties bestowed upon Indigenous Peoples throughout history. The most memorable part of the making of this film was the learning and re-enacting of Robert’s abduction and subsequent escape from the residential school in Cranbrook. I just can’t imagine a seven year old climbing out a window at night and then spending the next 21 days and nights in the forest finding his way back to his home in Creston. Unbelievable!”

The Creston Arts Council raised the funds for the making of this film so that Louie Sr’s story could be told while he was still well enough to do so. “I hope I have succeeded in telling Robert’s story in an engaging and emotional way while staying true to the facts so that audiences will experience it in a visceral and inspirational way,” said Caverly, who is honoured to have done it.

Following Susap will be the documentary Carry It On, a look at the life, music, and activism of legendary Indigenous singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie, who was the first Indigenous person to win an Oscar: she received it in 1983 for best original song, ‘Up Where We Belong’, which she co-wrote for the movie, An Officer and a Gentleman. 

The powerful documentary Carry it On about Indigenous trailblazer and singer/songwriter, Buffy Sainte Marie, will be the second of two Indigenous films on Friday, February 3 and will play at 6:30 p.m. Photo Submitted

“It’s unbelievable,” said Johnston. ‘Carry It On’ is very powerful and well made, and Sainte-Marie is brilliant. I feel it’s going to play well.” 

Something on the lighter side is planned for Saturday night; the film to be featured is being decided on.

The festival will close on Feb. 5 with the film, Riceboy Sleeps about a mother and son from Korea and the traumas that came with migrating to Canada in the early 1990’s.

“It’s very powerful and well done,” said Johnston. “It was voted best film at both the Calgary and Whistler film festivals this year. It is my hope that those who attend all seven films this year will walk away on Sunday night, thinking wow, what a weekend! Every year we are trying to put together a variety of films that are both thought-provoking and positive.”