From the directors:
This urgent music documentary comes at the right moment, just when the Standing Rock movement hit the news and alerted American consciousness to the challenges still facing Indigenous Americans, and in a year in which Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary – a date contested by Indigenous peoples, as it commemorates a colonial landmark.
For the last three years, we have crossed all of Canada and parts of the US in an attempt to capture this formidable moment of cultural resurgence, which is representative of the struggles and resilience of Indigenous communities around the world. We did so with passion, with highs and lows, but always with determination.
We wanted WHEN THEY AWAKE to be bright, full of hope, optimistic, forward-looking; to show a portrait of the zeitgeist, showcasing Indigenous cultural reclamation movement that is finally reaching the mainstream through social intervention, with music as its easiest gateway.
But we wanted the film to also be reflective; to honour the events of the past, to highlight a path moving forward, and to invite as all to question our privilege, and to re-asses and, in some cases reboot the complex, interwoven fabric of contemporary society, creating enough space for Indigenous peoples to reclaim their rightful place in it.
In a year packed with films on Indigenous subjects, WHEN THEY AWAKE starts off where the award-winning documentary Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World (2017) ends, chronicling the rising voices of musicians' whose multifaceted roles in the music scene, in community outreach, and political engagement form a new type of activism today. Bursting through the seams with the unapologetic optimism and poetic vision of a new generation of musicians, who are reflective of the social issues feeding this burgeoning scene, WHEN THEY AWAKE is an inspiring, uplifting kaleidoscope of powerful Indigenous voices from across the country.
As non-Indigenous filmmakers, it was our honour and our privilege to work on this film - and while a film rights no wrong, we hope to have done our best to build bridges between communities, and to provoke thought, discussion, dialogue, and above all long-overdue recognition.
We hope you will enjoy watching it.
P.J. Marcellino + Hermon Farahi
(co-directors, WHEN THEY AWAKE!)