TRENCH premieres at ImagineNATIVE
Mount Royal alumni takes his filmmaking to Toronto
By Anna Junker, News Editor
A recent Mount Royal University alumni is taking his documentary to an acclaimed Indigenous international film festival in Toronto this October.
Trevor Solway, who graduated from MRU’s journalism program, was approached by Lindsey Sharman of the Calgary Military Museums to create a documentary about Blackfoot artist Adrian Stimson’s performance called TRENCH.
“He was contracted to do a four-part performance on the 100th annual anniversary of Vimy Ridge which was a battle that took place during World War I” said Solway.
“Adrian has researched the battle and found that there was a great deal of Indigenous soldiers who took part in this war and in this particular battle.”
One soldier Stimson had researched, explained Solway, was Michael Mount Horse, a local Blackfoot veteran from the Blood Tribe. When he had come back from the war, Mount Horse created a story robe, which is a story illustrated on tanned animal hide.
“The story on the skin hide is illustrated using pictographs, sort’ve like a traditional comic book. Michael had recounted his story through this robe which is still intact today.” said Solway.
“Adrian had studied the robe and noticed he started the story with the Blackfoot war symbols which are square U’s. Adrian had noted they resembled trenches. He decided for his third of four performances would be to dig a trench for five days from sunrise to sunset.”
The TRENCH performance occurred from May 23 to 27 this year and dug on Siksika Nation, on Stimson’s family homestead. Solway said Stimson wanted to spark conversation around Indigenous soldiers in World War I, as they were often overlooked.
For Solway, filming the performance was very important as a way to remember the sacrifice they had made.
“The idea alone of honouring forgotten Indigenous Veterans was a deal breaker for me taking on this project. The way Adrian intended to carry out this performance, by digging a trench, for five days from sunrise to sunset, was extra incentive,” said Solway.
“It was a powerful and memorable experience to get up at 4 a.m. and watch the sunrise, watch the land wake-up, listen to the ambience of birds singing, the incessant sound of insects and then to watch the land go back to sleep when the sun sets at 10 p.m. Just the experience of being on the land and feeling the frequencies of the land was powerful.”
“It’s still there but it has been weathered by the elements and gophers have made a home of it,” said Solway.
Solway will be showcasing his film at the 18th annual ImagineNATIVE festival, the world’s largest presenter of Indigenous film and arts screening. This is his second time attending, after showcasing his comedic short Indian Giver last year.
“As a young Indigenous filmmaker, every decision we make, every story we tell, every message we put out there has significant impacts. We really have to consider what we are trying to do. The Blackfoot work is Aikiispa, what are we doing,” said Solway.
“To be able to make a documentary, a narrative film, a short clip record on your cell phone is privilege. A privilege that hasn’t always been available to our people, we have to recognize our opportunity and tell stories that matter.”
ImagineNATIVE occurs October 18 to 22 in Toronto.