The Xeni Gwet’in Annual Wagon Trip will be featured on the world stage through a new documentary that will premiere at the Vancouver International Film Festival this fall.
Created by Indigenous filmmakers Trevor Mack and Asia Youngman, In The Valley of Wild Horses follows the week-long wagon trip from Xeni Gwet’in (Nemiah Valley) to the Williams Lake Stampede.
It was filmed in 2018, Mack told the Tribune.
“The organizers of the wagon trip always wanted to document it to be used as an example of land-based healing,” Mack said. “I think the timing was right in terms of myself and Asia and Xeni Gwet’in. It’s a pretty magical trip and journey.”
Neither of them had ever done the wagon trip before, and through the experience they discovered a “great” sense of community.
“Being disconnected from the internet, from work and phones for a week was incredible,” Mack said. “It was overwhelming because everyone was happy and so willing to help.”
One evening when Mack forgot his sleeping bag, somebody from the community immediately went and found one for him.
“Jimmy Lulua gave me his horse blanket.”
Mack and Youngman were recording one evening and it was pouring down rain.
While they were so busy filming, their tent was deluged and somebody in the community helped them out by fixing the tent for them.
Excited to attend the premiere of the film, they are trying to plan a nice launch for the film to get the screening it deserves, he added.
“We want to expose, not only the film, but the rider trip itself and we think there’s a lot of opportunity for people to jump on the wagon. I think after this film is premiered and it plays online they will get an influx of a lot more people wanting to be part of it.”
Growing up in Williams Lake and Tl’etinqox (Anaham) First Nation, Mack said his mom Barb often took him to Xeni Gwet’in to watch band meetings and see the scenery, which he described as world class.
Mack said the filming project had an impact.
“I think I noticed that sometimes I take things too quickly, mind-wise, and don’t stop to really connect with the land, connect with my language, and focus on meaningful relationships with people,” Mack said. “Instead I’m turning my mind on work and things that are superficial.”
In the 25-minute film there is footage of places in the Cariboo Chilcotin seen from angles, Mack does not think have ever been seen before.
“Places that are really familiar, look incredible from the angles that we got. We used drones and regular cameras.”
Youngman grew up in Surrey.
Her mother is Cree and Iroquois and grew up in Quesnel and her father is Carrier, was born in Prince George and grew up in Surrey.
She was doing videography for many years, and two years ago she graduated from film school.
“My first film, Lelum’, premiered in 2017 at the imagineNATIVE Film Festival in Toronto and it won the award for best documentary short,” she said, explaining the film was about land from the perspective of Indigenous youth.
Youngman had never seen the Xeni Gwet’in area or the wagon trip before embarking on the film project.
“It was a pretty cool experience for me.”
Assisting them was Keith Koepke, a photographer and apprentice from Nemiah Valley.
For the film’s cover art, Youngman solicited a friend from Calgary, Alisa Romanova, who she met at the Vancouver Film School.
“She did the concept art for my final project. I’ve known her for a few years. She does amazing work,” Youngman said.
Mack began his film career when he was 17 years old and has gone on to create several films including The Blanketing which premiered in 2013, Clouds of Autumn which premiered in 2015, ?Etsu (Grandmother) which screened in 2017 at the Vancouver International Film Festival.
In the spring of 2016, he directed seven episodes for an APTN series, The Other Side, which was shown on TV that fall.
He recently received funding to create a new film – Portraits from the Fire – which will be about the community of Tl’etinqox First Nation during the 2017 wildfires.
“It will be my first regular length film,” Mack said.
This year’s Vancouver International Film Festival goes from Sept. 27 to Oct. 12.