He Who Dreams: Reflections on an Indigenous Life in Film

Article excerpt

The performer stood in front of a blank white screen upon which projections appeared. Throughout the address, the performer read aloud from several scripts, which included dialogue, stage directions, shot descriptions, etc. Stage directions for the keynote performance itself, which were not read aloud and which indicate the style of presentation, are here (italicized and placed in parentheses).

Greetings and Welcome Colleagues, Friends. Tansi and Boozhoo Filmmakers, Directors, Screenwriters, Critics, and Scholars. Hello Cineastes, Film junkies. (slyly) You know who you are. (beat) If a movie comes on at 2am--even if you're dead tired--you'll watch it all the way to the bitter end, all the way to the final fade out and credits! (Even if it's terrible. Even if you've seen it before.)

(sheepish AA first-timer) "Hi, my name is Michael. I'm a film addict:"

(using various voices, overlapped): "Hi Michael. Hi, Mike." (Image: Writing appears on the screen, crisp white letters against black, "Hi, Michael.")

Ladies and Gentlemen. This is a map of a human heart. This is a chalk outline. These are footprints in the snow ... leading to ...

(reading from screenplay)

EXT. NIGHT. WINTER.

The air has a deadly chill. Lights from nearby houses and cottages cast an eerie glow through a stand of trees. THREE MEN are walking down a country road. The snow is hard-packed underfoot. Their breath comes churning out of their mouths. Their BOOTS SQUEAKING against the snow.

One of the MEN, a NATIVE man in his mid-twenties, motions the others to stop. He HEARS something. They all stop.

CLOSE ON NATIVE MAN.

NATIVE MAN

Do you hear that?

WIDE SHOT.

The other MEN shake their heads. The NATIVE MAN listens. He hears only winter silence.

NATIVEMAN (shaking his head)

It's gone.

They start walking again. Eager to get back inside to the warmth. Sound of trees CRACKING in the wind. Likes bones breaking.

NATIVE MAN

That!

The other two MEN halt, again listening intently.

NATIVE MAN

Something's out there. It's following us. I can hear it when we're walking. But when we stop. It stops.

CUT TO:

POV from behind the trees. CAMERA dollies through the woods. The trunks of trees passing in front of the lens. Thick black rectangles moving right to left across the screen. The THREE MEN, not altogether unaware they are being watched, start walking quickly toward the house down the road.

Sound of bones BREAKING.

(end of screenplay)

The air was so cold and clear that night that the sound of our shoes hitting the hard-pack snow was echoing in the trees ... Just our own footsteps bouncing off tree after tree. That's all ... It was better when I thought it was breaking bones.

(Image: Toronto, 1977. Except where noted, all subsequent text is white against a black background.)

National Ballet School. Maitland Street. Distorted mirrors and wooden floors.

(Image: "Indian Boy with Dancing Feet." Toronto Star.) "First Native boy, a Cree from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, accepted into Canada's National Ballet School, after extensive auditions across Canada:" Betty O. Broken bones.

Toronto, 1987. (Image: The National Ballet of Canada.) National Ballet. 70 Dancers. Full Orchestra. Powdered wigs. Frederick Ashton and Petipa. Fake moustaches and tambourines. Bones breaking. Swan Lake.

(Image: New York City, 1990.)

Breaking bones as I fell from the sky. Eliot Feld. July. So hot that I sweated through black leather ballet shoes. Leaving black footprints on the marley dance floor. Nancy. Walking hand in hand down 18th St., Astoria. Union Square. East Village. I saw Dances With Wolves on Broadway and 141h. Brown faces ten feet tall. Told her I wanted to be an actor. …