Decentering Otherness: Intercultural Encounters and Ethical Imperatives in Kuessipan

Ioa­na V. Pribiag

If two decades ago, accor­ding to Bill Mar­shall, “no Qué­bec film [had] yet arti­cu­la­ted the full sym­bo­lic and nar­ra­tive poten­tial that lies within the rela­tion­ship bet­ween native peoples and Cana­diens/Québécois,” this is no lon­ger the case today.1 A pro­gres­sive flou­ri­shing of Indi­ge­nous media in Qué­bec has emer­ged from the conjunc­ture of Native com­mu­ni­ties’ relent­less poli­ti­cal struggles, on the one hand, and the sub­stan­tial Cana­dian and pro­vin­cial sup­port of mul­ti­cul­tu­ra­lism in the arts on the other. Natio­nal Film Board (NFB/ ONF) ini­tia­tives begin­ning in the 1960s, the deve­lop­ment of the Abo­ri­gi­nal Peoples Tele­vi­sion Net­work (APTN) in the 1990s and cross-cultu­ral col­la­bo­ra­tions such as the Arnait Women’s Col­lec­tive and Wapi­ko­ni Mobile have resul­ted in the pro­duc­tion of hun­dreds of docu­men­ta­ry and fic­tion shorts, fea­ture films, music videos and tele­vi­sion series.2 These works mark a turn- ing point toward “visual” or “repre­sen­ta­tio­nal sove­rei­gn­ty.”3 They pro­tect cultu­ral heri­tages and lan­guages, pro­mote the dis­se­mi­na­tion of cultures and expe­riences and com­bat iso­la­tion and alie­na­tion in First Nations’ com­mu­ni­ties. Many of these pro­duc­tions addi­tio­nal­ly create oppor­tu­ni­ties for mutual­ly enri­ching encoun­ters bet­ween First Nations and non-Indi­ge­nous people. Such encoun­ters begin to bridge the cultu­ral and geo­gra­phi­cal dis­tances sepa­ra­ting Native peoples and Qué­bé­cois, ope­ning the way for what Mar­shall had cal­led a “métis­sage to be redis­co­ve­red.”4 This gra­dual­ly unfold- ing cine­ma­tic cor­pus consti­tutes, accor­ding to Karine Ber­trand, “une nou- velle géo­gra­phie (trans-natio­nale) sym­bo­lique et iden­ti­taire.”5 For Ber­trand, cine­ma is a pri­vi­le­ged medium for this “toile nou­velle d’une culture métis- sée” des­ti­ned to break down racial, poli­ti­cal and social divides.6

Mar­shall and Bertrand’s turn to the notion of métis­sage is not self-evident. It is a less fre­quent­ly empha­si­zed dimen­sion of stu­dies on Indi­ge­nous cine­ma, which overw­hel­min­gly tend to stress self-repre­sen­ta­tion. This phe­no­me­non is unders­tan­dable, given that Native works are respon­ding to over a century’s worth of fil­mic conven­tions objec­ti­fying and othe­ring Indi­ge­nous sub­jects. Michelle Raheja’s concept of “visual sove­rei­gn­ty,” for ins­tance, calls on “Indi­ge­nous people to express rea­li­ty in their own voices.”7 For Rahe­ja, the eman­ci­pa­to­ry force of crea­tive self-repre­sen­ta­tion extends beyond cri­tique and revi­sion; she explains it is also a mat­ter of what Robert Allen War­rior calls “intel­lec­tual health.”8 Simi­lar­ly, Kers­tin Knopf claims that, “for Indi­ge­nous film­ma­kers, deco­lo­ni­za­tion starts when they take their image-making and self-repre­sen­ta­tion into their own hands, crea­ting deco­lo­ni­zed cultu­ral, his­to­ri­cal, and poli­ti­cal dis­courses.”9 The redun­dan­cy of Knopf’s for­mu­la­tion high­lights the sense of urgen­cy infor­ming her argu­ment. Never­the­less, many scho­lars of Indi­ge­nous cine­ma simul­ta­neous­ly reco­gnize the dif­fi­cul­ty of defi­ning what consti­tutes an “Indi­ge­nous film.” Is an Indi­ge­nous direc­tor suf­fi­cient to earn this title, even if the cast and crew are non-Indi­ge­nous? What about the inverse? Does the content of the nar­ra­tive need to be infor­med by Indi­ge­nous themes or cultu­ral issues? As Milé­na San­to­ro notes, advo­ca­ting for a res­tric­tive impe­ra­tive of self-repre­sen­ta­tion involves a risk of fal­ling into essen­tia­lism and exclu­ding films that might not have been made by Indi­ge­nous direc­tors, yet are com­mit­ted to deco­lo­ni­zing dis­courses and images of Abo­ri­gi­nal peoples.10 We should the­re­fore be wary of main­tai­ning rigid oppo­si­tions bet­ween Self and Other that can ulti­ma­te­ly entrench colo­nial divides. As Kwame Antho­ny Appiah power­ful­ly explains, even “the cele­bra­tion of one­self as Other” can become a form of anxious “alte­ri­tism,” a mecha­ni­cal “manu­fac­ture of alte­ri­ty” against a mono­li­thic West that only conti­nues struc­tures of domi­na­tion in ano­ther form.11

Métis­sage runs its own risks, of course, espe­cial­ly in a context where the pro­mo­tion of bio­lo­gi­cal hybri­di­ty has a his­to­ri­cal connec­tion to colo­nial assi­mi­la­tion. Moreo­ver, Laurent Dubreuil’s nuan­ced cri­tique of the term reminds us of the extent to which the impe­ra­tive of métis­sage can conti­nue to serve an eth­no­cen­tric ideo­lo­gy, redu­cing the domi­nant culture’s “Other” to an orna­men­tal func­tion.12 While remai­ning skep­ti­cal toward the term, I never­the­less view its empha­sis on rela­tion as a cru­cial contri­bu­tion to the emer­ging cri­ti­cal cor­pus on Indi­ge­nous cine­ma. Because métis­sage relies on a dia­lec­tic bet­ween cultu­ral spe­ci­fi­ci­ty and exchange, it is a poten­tial cata­lyst for trou­bling both a facile uni­ver­sa­lism and iden­ti­ta­rian dis­courses that might tend toward solip­sis­tic with­dra­wal. This unea­sy label pro­vides a fra­me­work for consi­de­ring films that, regard­less of their point of ori­gin, open a space for an authen­tic Indi­ge­nous prise de parole or explore the ines­ca­pable poro­si­ty of cultu­ral boundaries.

It is from this pers­pec­tive that this article exa­mines Kues­si­pan (2019), Myriam Verreault’s col­la­bo­ra­tive adap­ta­tion of Innu wri­ter Nao­mi Fontaine’s epo­ny­mous novel. The film is one of the most high­ly acclai­med pro­duc­tions within Québec’s shif­ting, trans­na­tio­nal cine­ma­tic land­scape. Kues­si­pan is a coming-of-age sto­ry from the pers­pec­tive of a young Innu girl, Mikuan, who aspires to become a wri­ter. Her dream involves lea­ving the Uashat reserve to attend uni­ver­si­ty in Qué­bec City at the same time as she aspires to cele­brate the beau­ty and resi­lience of her com­mu­ni­ty. The film focuses on Mikuan’s rela­tion­ships with her fami­ly and her Innu friend, Shan­nis, as well as on her romance with a white Qué­bé­cois boy­friend, Fran­cis, which comes to an abrupt end fol­lo­wing the unti­me­ly death of Mikuan’s bro­ther in a car acci­dent. The film repre­sents the ins­pi­ring crea­tion of a hybrid voice that chal­lenges both exo­tic or naïve repre­sen­ta­tions of “the Indi­ge­nous Other” and fal­se­ly homo­ge­nous repre­sen­ta­tions of a Qué­bé­cois iden­ti­ty. It ope­rates a decen­te­ring of other­ness, by which I not only mean that other­ness is no lon­ger per­cei­ved by and for a hege­mo­ni­cal­ly cen­te­red Self. This pro­cess implies a much more pro­found epis­te­mo­lo­gi­cal and rela­tio­nal shift, in which the cen­ter itself is othe­red, the Other becomes (a) cen­ter, and there is a gene­ral decons­truc­tion of these cate­go­ries toward plu­ra­li­ty and equa­li­ty. Kues­si­pan moves beyond rela­tions of vic­ti­mi­za­tion or nar­ra­tives revol­ving around a white savior/mediator and rather opens a space of pro­duc­tive exchange and soli­da­ri­ty that is emble­ma­tic of what Michael Gott and Thi­baut Schilt name ciné­ma-monde. Ciné­ma-monde shares and inten­si­fies the decen­te­ring impe­tus of lit­té­ra­ture-monde; it consti­tutes “late­ral connec­tions” and “‘encoun­ters’ bet­ween dif­ferent cultures and pers­pec­tives” within the French-spea­king world.13 Howe­ver, cinema’s visual and aural dimen­sions, as well as the use of sub­titles, can bypass lan­guage bar­riers in a unique way, which makes ciné- ma-monde a more viable concept than its contro­ver­sial lite­ra­ry coun­ter­part. Impor­tant­ly, for Gott and Schilt, “ciné­ma-monde becomes more than a poten­tial­ly use­ful clas­si­fi­ca­tion when the encoun­ter […] sparks soli­da­ri­ty, or at least recog­ni­tion of a sha­red expe­rience. The two (or more) inter­lo­cu­tors must forge some sort of connec­tion via a com­mon mar­gi­nal or alter­na­tive posi­tion or a sha­red ethic.”14

This article explores how such encoun­ters are mobi­li­zed by Kues­si­pan through the film­ma­king pro­cess, within the film’s nar­ra­tive and in its aes­the­tic construc­tion and inter­pel­la­tion of vie­wers (nota­bly through the use of maps and close ups). I exa­mine the ethi­cal impli­ca­tions of these dimen­sions and show how, much like Fontaine’s novel, the film speaks to a subt­ly adver­sa­rial unders­tan­ding of the encoun­ter, wor­king against the ste­reo­ty­ping set­tler gaze through its cor­rec­tive, lyri­cal por­traits. As a form of cine­ma­tic métis­sage or ciné­ma-monde, Kues­si­pan goes beyond facile inter­ac­tions to ins­cribe a poly­va­lent call, both hom­mage and invi­ta­tion, to open­ness and responsibility.

Film­ma­king as Cultu­ral Métis­sage
The encoun­ters behind the making of Kues­si­pan’s pro­ject are in many ways as impor­tant as those taking place on screen and with the audience. In par­ti­cu­lar, Ver­reault and Fontaine’s col­la­bo­ra­tion on the film’s screen­play is alrea­dy an act of métis­sage. The two artists des­cribe in seve­ral inter­views their connec­tion and the long, invol­ved pro­cess of brin­ging the work to life. Retur­ning to the rich reso­nances of the word “kues­si­pan,” mea­ning “your turn,” Ver­reault explains that:

le titre fait écho non seule­ment à l’histoire, mais aus­si au pro­ces­sus de créa­tion. Il y avait quelque chose à trans­mettre, une sorte de pas­sa­tion de flam­beau pour que le film puisse exis­ter. Nao­mi a d’abord accep­té de me trans­mettre son livre Kues­si­pan, mais elle m’a aus­si trans­mis une volon­té et un savoir.15  

On her end, Fon­taine has des­cri­bed fee­ling hesi­tant when Ver­reault first contac­ted her about wor­king toge­ther on a film, because she was concer­ned that the resul­ting adap­ta­tion could end up per­pe­tua­ting ste­reo­types.16 The pair were in agree­ment, howe­ver, that they were not loo­king to dis­play cli­chés or sen­sa­tio­na­lism, and Fon­taine wel­co­med Ver­reault to Uashat in the sum­mer of 2012. Verreault’s immer­sion in the Innu com­mu­ni­ty was the begin­ning of the seven-year, tru­ly col­la­bo­ra­tive pro­cess of brin­ging Kues­si­pan to the screen. Ver­reault and Fon­taine were in constant com­mu­ni­ca­tion throu­ghout the script-wri­ting pro­cess. Des­pite mul­tiple dif­fi­cul­ties with fun­ding and the resul­ting six­teen rounds of revi­sion, Ver­reault explai­ned that Fon­taine “s’est impo­sée comme la gar­dienne de la culture et de l’esprit du pro­jet”.17 Meanw­hile, Fon­taine vie­wed Verreault’s film as an ope­ning for the novel to gain new meanings.

Open­ness cha­rac­te­rizes both works, as dif­ferent as they are from each other. The open­ness of the address to the Other—kues­si­pan—was mul­ti­plied fur­ther in the pro­duc­tion pro­cess, as almost all of the actors were mem­bers of the Innu com­mu­ni­ty without any pro­fes­sio­nal acting expe­rience. Ver­reault deci­ded to cast the film in such a way that the actors’ per­so­na­li­ties and expe­riences could inform the construc­tion of the cha­rac­ters and plot. They sha­red their sto­ries with her, adding a layer of mea­ning­ful authen­ti­ci­ty to the film. While making fun­ding more chal­len­ging, trai­ning and wor­king with non­pro­fes­sio­nal actors inten­si­fied the extent to which the com­mu­ni­ty felt inves­ted in the pro­ject, lear­ned from it and became proud of its result. In fact, when the Kana­ta contro­ver­sy broke out in 2018 around the topic of cultu­ral appro­pria­tion, Verreault’s pro­ject recei­ved rene­wed sup­port from the Innu cast and team.18 Fontaine’s com­ments on the contro­ver­sy, in com­pa­ring the two approaches, are enlightening:

Pour Kana­ta, Lepage, dont j’aime beau­coup le tra­vail, s’est pri­vé de quelque chose. Il s’est pri­vé d’une ren­contre. Ce qu’on a cri­ti­qué, c’est le fait de ne pas avoir inclus les Autoch­tones [sic] d’une manière ou d’une autre… [Ver­reault] l’a fait avec res­pect, elle l’a fait avec nous, d’égal à égal… Peut- être que le film est une forme d’appropriation cultu­relle. Si oui, c’est la plus belle façon de le faire, c’est-à-dire ensemble. Ce qui importe c’est la manière. Pour être claire, je ne crois pas à l’appropriation au sens qu’on lui donne main­te­nant. Je crois à l’échange, au par­tage.19

Fon­taine empha­sizes the cru­cial role of the inter­cul­tu­ral encoun­ter in the crea­tive pro­cess. She sides­teps the mis­gui­ded iso­la­tio­nism sub­ten­ding debates around cultu­ral appro­pria­tion, posing ins­tead the ques­tion of the ethi­cal import of equa­li­ty and connec­tion. Because of the deep col­la­bo­ra­tion bet­ween Fon­taine and Ver­reault, the film became a source of com­mu­ni­ty pride for the Innu, as well as a point of contact bet­ween Uashat and Sept-Îles. In ana­ly­zing the film itself, it is impor­tant not to lose sight of this very real impact that the pro­duc­tion pro­cess can have on people and on com­mu­ni­ties. Ver­reault recalls that at the Sept-Îles pre­miere, “les deux com­mu­nau­tés part- ageaient les rires autant que les larmes pen­dant toute la pro­jec­tion.”20 In the end, the direc­tor explains that it is the trans­for­ma­tive pro­cess of making the film that she found most rewar­ding: “[J]e suis encore plus fière du pro­ces­sus que du résul­tat. Le résul­tat c’est le film et je l’aime bien, mais le pro­ces­sus a duré sept ans et a été enri­chis­sant pour tout le monde.”21 Kues­si­pan thus exem­pli­fies the gene­ra­tive and libe­ra­ting power of inter­cul­tu­ral encoun­ter and exchange, not just in its content, but also in Ver­reault and Fontaine’s com­mit­ment to rela­tio­nal and ethi­cal filmmaking.

Decen­te­ring Sub­ject and Space

[T]he vio­lence of a racia­li­zed socie­ty falls most endu­rin­gly on the details of life: where you can sit, or not; how you can live, or not; what you can learn, or not; who you can love, or not.

Homi K. Bhabha22

Nar­ra­ti­ve­ly, Kues­si­pan decen­ters the mea­ning of Qué­bé­cois iden­ti­ty and depro­vin­cia­lizes so-cal­led “Native issues.” Inter­cul­tu­ra­li­ty is not mere­ly trea­ted in a minor or tan­gen­tial way, but rather as a cen­tral theme, pri­ma­ri­ly through Mikuan’s rela­tion­ship with Fran­cis. Ver­reault explains that she wished to make the her­me­tic divide bet­ween the adja­cent com­mu­ni­ties of Uashat and Sept-Îles visible:

Ce qui m’a frap­pée, c’est que blancs et Innus sont voi­sins, à Sept-Îles, lit­té­ra- lement. On tra­verse de l’autre côté de la rue et sou­dai­ne­ment, on sort ou on entre dans la réserve. Les gens se côtoient sans se par­ler. L’histoire d’amour entre Mikuan et Fran­cis révèle cette proxi­mi­té silen­cieuse et sa com­plexi­té. 23

The pri­ma­ry nar­ra­tive thread of the inter­cul­tu­ral love sto­ry aims to chal­lenge this false proxi­mi­ty while ges­tu­ring toward an ethic of open­ness toward the neighbor.

The film insists on the geo­gra­phi­cal divi­sion mar­ked by inequa­li­ty, fear and sus­pi­cion. It is pri­ma­ri­ly police that uni­di­rec­tio­nal­ly tra­verse the boun­da­ry bet­ween com­mu­ni­ties. The rhyth­mic fla­shing of their red and blue lights is echoed in the laser effects of the Sept-Îles bar where Mikuan and Fran­cis meet, sug­ges­ting that this osten­si­bly cheer­ful and relaxed envi­ron­ment is never­the­less stee­ped in poten­tial hos­ti­li­ty. Indeed, the moment of encoun­ter bet­ween Mikuan and Fran­cis is tin­ged with conten­tion through both Shaniss’s outra­ged inter­rup­tion of their first kiss and Shaniss’s boy­friend Greg’s bru­tal bea­ting of a white youth for using a racial slur. This, in turn, trig­gers one of the film’s sub­plots lea­ding to Greg’s arrest, which rein­forces poli­cing as the main mode of inter­cul­tu­ral encounter.

It is Mikuan and Fran­cis that break out of the iso­la­tion of their res­pec­tive com­mu­ni­ties. When they next run into each other at a crea­tive wri­ting group Mikuan has joi­ned in Sept-Îles, their comi­cal­ly awk­ward conver­sa­tion after the class expli­cit­ly calls into ques­tion the mea­ning of being Qué­bé­cois or Innu. When Fran­cis tells Mikuan that “eve­ryone was sur­pri­sed to see a girl from the reserve at the work­shop,” she tea­sin­gly presses him to explain:

Fran­cis : Quand même, c’est la pre­mière fois que j’y vois quelqu’un de Uashat… ils se mélangent pas on dirait.

Mikuan : Qui ça « ils » ?

Fran­cis : Ben, les Innus.

Mikuan : À qui ?

Fran­cis : Ben, à nous autres, les… les Qué­bé­cois. Ah non non non, mais je vou­lais pas dire que t’étais pas Qué­bé­coise là. Non non… c’est juste que, genre, on dirait qu’ils se mélangent pas à… à nous autres, les… les blancs. […] OK, je recom­mence… On dirait qu’ils se mélangent pas à, genre, nous autres, les les les les les pas, les pas Innus là ? Ça marche pas ça ?

This scene ligh­thear­ted­ly explores the thor­ny issue of racial and cultu­ral cate­go­ries as Mikuan’s play­ful silence forces Fran­cis to exa­mine the assump­tions behind his words to the point of stam­me­ring. As he unpacks his own logic, the mea­ning of the pro­noun nous shifts considerably—from the reflexive

Qué­bé­cois, to white, to non-Innu—, making the majo­ri­ty define itself in terms of the mino­ri­ty. Inter­es­tin­gly, Fran­cis uses nous and ils (rather than vous), pla­cing Mikuan out­side of the Innu group he is refer­ring to and cha­rac­te­ri­zing as with­drawn. This ges­ture of res­pect and affec­tion ini­tial­ly allows him to rely on a dicho­to­mous oppo­si­tion (us/them), which imme­dia­te­ly falls apart since Mikuan is Innu and she is min­gling. In this scene, the alte­ri­ty of the Other is no lon­ger taken for gran­ted from the posi­tion of a hege­mo­nic gaze (be it that of the white cha­rac­ter or that of the came­ra). It is not just that the subal­tern Other is no lon­ger whol­ly Other; rather, the domi­nant posi­tion from which the Other is typi­cal­ly per­cei­ved is decen­te­red. In fact, the film ope­rates a “switch” cha­rac­te­ris­tic of what Bar­ry Bar­clay cal­led “Fourth Cine­ma:” it enacts “a limit-point to set­tler vision and sense of place.”24 Ste­phen Tur­ner explains that “the view of Indi­ge­nous media, where it is concer­ned with non-Indi­ge­nous peoples, looks back at those who have long loo­ked at the [I]ndigene, and poses the reverse ques­tion: And who, exact­ly, are you?”25 This switch is pre­ci­se­ly what Fon­taine her­self points to when dis­cus­sing the impor­tance of tea­ching Innu lite­ra­ture in Qué­bec. Spea­king to a pre­do­mi­nant­ly white Qué­bé­cois audience, Fon­taine affirms that Innu lite­ra­ture speaks of Qué­bé­cois his­to­ry and socie­ty, except that “c’est pas le Qué­bé­cois qui observe les autres, c’est le Qué­bé­cois qui est obser­vé. Alors dans cette lit­té­ra­ture-là, l’autre c’est pas le nou­vel arri­vant ou en tout cas c’est pas l’Innu non plus. C’est vous qui êtes l’autre dans cette lit­té­ra­ture-là, pis je pense que c’est bien de se voir là-dedans aus­si : ‘c’est comme ça qu’on me voit’.”26 In desi­gna­ting the audience direct­ly, Fon­taine signals that this decen­te­ring of alte­ri­ty goes beyond die­ge­sis to affect the rea­ders (and in our case the spec­ta­tors), who find their sense of Self in rela­tion to the Other thrown into ques­tion as well.

In Kues­si­pan, a simi­lar decen­te­ring occurs when Fran­cis drives Mikuan home after a wri­ting work­shop and they stop to observe some elec­tri­ci­ty towers on a hill over­loo­king the bay. On the way, Fran­cis is explai­ning Plato’s alle­go­ry of the cave to Mikuan, crea­ting a peda­go­gi­cal setup that seems ini­tial­ly to flow from his direction—she is, after all, the one who has come “out” of the reserve and into the set­tler world. Howe­ver, the exchange that fol­lows, as well as the pre­ce­ding wri­ters’ work­shop scene (which I return to in a moment) reverse this impres­sion. Des­pite the appa­rent sim­pli­ci­ty of this conver­sa­tion, the scene is one of the most com­plex in the entire film, with layers of poe­ti­cal­ly construc­ted meaning. 

Fran­cis brings Mikuan to this hill as a roman­tic ges­ture; he is mes­me­ri­zed by the invi­sible cra­ck­ling of the power lines. She, on the other hand, thinks imme­dia­te­ly of First Nations’ pro­tests against their being set up on Indi­ge­nous land and men­tions her father being arres­ted in the resul­ting blo­ckade. Francis’s father, by contrast, had sim­ply been annoyed by this obs­truc­tion. Fran­cis then attempts to learn about a his­to­ry he was never expo­sed to, asking Mikuan if she was ever told why First Nations peoples “ended up” on reserves. His naïve ques­tion is impli­cit­ly ans­we­red by the very site he has brought Mikuan to. As Fon­taine has poin­ted­ly out­li­ned in an inter­view, enclo­sing the noma­dic Innu popu­la­tion in reserves was spe- spe­ci­fi­cal­ly a solu­tion for increa­sing Québec’s access to resources, expan­ding infra­struc­ture and pro­mo­ting eco­no­mic growth:

La réserve n’a jamais été un choix… Ça a été impo­sé par le gou­ver­ne­ment parce qu’on était déran­geant, parce qu’on était des nomades, parce que à ce moment-là il fal­lait exploi­ter les res­sources natu­relles dans le Nord qué­bé- cois, pis c’était notre ter­ri­toire, pis le pro­blème avec les nomades c’est qu’ils sont nulle part et par­tout en même temps… Un jour ils sont là, le lende- main ils sont pas là, mais là si tu veux creu­ser une mine, qu’est-ce qu’on fait ?… Pen­sez pas que la réserve c’était autre chose qu’une solu­tion à ce pro­blème-là qu’on avait impo­sé par notre mode de vie. C’était une solu­tion pour le gou­ver­ne­ment de pou­voir exploi­ter libre­ment le ter­ri­toire.27

The brief exchange bet­ween Mikuan and Fran­cis as they look up at the intri­cate struc­ture above them effec­ti­ve­ly high­lights diver­ging ways of rela­ting to land and infra­struc­ture. This scene invites the vie­wer to consi­der the fraught his­to­ry of Hydro-Québec’s mas­sive ener­gy deve­lop­ment over the last six decades. As Caro­line Des­biens explains in Power from the North (2014), “for the Indi­ge­nous popu­la­tion of Nor­thern Qué­bec, the deve­lop­ment scheme that would make many Sou­thern Qué­bec resi­dents so proud spel­led one more phase of ter­ri­to­rial loss and attemp­ted cultu­ral assi­mi­la­tion.”28 The social and envi­ron­men­tal costs of this ener­gy deve­lop­ment are sel­dom fore­groun­ded in public dis­course. The land­scape modi­fi­ca­tions imple­men­ted by Hydro- Qué­bec nota­bly invol­ved floo­ding pre­vious­ly fores­ted areas, drow­ning large por­tions of Native land and impac­ting hun­ting acti­vi­ties. They also resul­ted in signi­fi­cant mer­cu­ry poi­so­ning of the Native population.

It is notable, then, that Kues­si­pan nar­ra­ti­ve­ly frames the conflic­tual sta­tus of the elec­tri­ci­ty towers through a pre­ce­ding sequence in which the Vol­lant fami­ly takes the train north to go hun­ting and returns with a whole Cari­bou. The ani­mal is laid on a tarp in the middle of the kit­chen and the pro­cess of skin­ning, evis­ce­ra­ting and cut­ting up its body unfolds, part­ly through a series of close ups: a dis­mem­be­red cari­bou leg that dangles before the amu­sed gaze of Mikuan’s todd­ler sis­ter and Shaniss’s baby; Mikuan’s father wiping the sweat from his face during this phy­si­cal­ly deman­ding task; and seve­ral cha­rac­ters hudd­led clo­se­ly toge­ther around the car­cass, enjoying the com­mu­nal, ritual nature of this moment. In fore­groun­ding hun­ting as one of seve­ral tra- ditio­nal ele­ments that still inform modern life on the reserve, Kues­si­pan cele­brates the adap­ta­bi­li­ty and strength of the Innu des­pite the phy­si­cal enclo­sure of this noma­dic people.

The scene of the elec­tri­ci­ty tower thus subt­ly stages an ongoing conflict bet­ween two radi­cal­ly oppo­sing value sys­tems. Hydro-Québec’s use of the land cer­tain­ly ser­ved as an effec­tive natio­na­li­zing tool for the Qué­bé­cois, but it relied, and conti­nues to rely on the extrac­tive and dis­pos­ses­sive logic of colo­nial expan­sion. Moreo­ver, it powers a life­style that is at odds with tra­di­tio­nal abo­ri­gi­nal ways of life and their reliance on the land and clean water for hun­ting, trap­ping and fishing. Des­biens also points out the broa­der iden­ti­ta­rian issues at stake in hydroe­lec­tric deve­lop­ment, arguing that it “underscore[s] at least three ques­tions that are at the heart of the natio­na­list move­ment but also extend to Cana­da as a whole: Who are the Qué­bé­cois people? What are the contours of their natio­nal ter­ri­to­ry? Is their claim to Abo­ri­gi­nal lands and resources legi­ti­mate?”29

The peda­go­gi­cal direc­tion of Plato’s alle­go­ry of the cave is thus rever­sed, as it is Fran­cis who is lear­ning to see beyond the illu­sions of his own socie­ty. Whe­reas in the pre­vious encoun­ter, he had been for­ced to consi­der the uncom­for­table ques­tion of “who am I?”, the dis­cus­sion around land and the reserves impli­cit­ly creates a dis­pla­ce­ment resul­ting in a new quan­da­ry: “where am I?” As Tur­ner argues, “where the short his­to­ry of natio­nal ortho­doxy shades into long his­to­ry, the shape of place shifts.”30 The “short his­to­ry” of colo­nial set­tle­ment and the extrac­tive sha­ping of space, pre­di­ca­ted on the “natio­nal orthodoxy’s” unques­tio­ned values of pro­per­ty, pro­gress and growth, is thrown into cri­sis. This shift is not sim­ply, or even pri­ma­ri­ly, diegetic—it requires an eman­ci­pa­to­ry her­me­neu­tic effort on the part of the vie­wer. Bor­ro­wing from Tur­ner, we can say that Ver­reault “thus brings into view a world of long his­to­ry, which dis­torts the fra­ming of my own shor­ter his­to­ry here, and chal­lenges my sense of self and place.”31

A secon­da­ry rever­sal of Plato’s alle­go­ry occurs more subt­ly. One of Mikuan’s voi­ceo­vers begins as the cari­bou is being car­ved: “Mon centre du monde se situe dans une baie, une baie de sable, recou­verte de neige six mois par année…” She then poe­ti­cal­ly details a social geo­gra­phy of the reserve—its houses, ceme­te­ry, sta­dium, chil­dren, people and cars. Her voice flows into the die­ge­sis as she reads her wri­ting to the work­shop par­ti­ci­pants. Mikuan’s words have a decen­te­ring force in this scene, since the pos­ses­sive “my” implies a mul­ti­pli­ci­ty of cen­ters, as many “cen­ters” as there are per­cei­ving sub­jects, in fact. The white par­ti­ci­pants lis­ten as she offers them a glimpse of the neigh­bo­ring world of the reserve, which they have like­ly never seen. She reads before her cap­ti­va­ted, white audience in a large, dark amphi­thea­ter, with only an ove­rhead light shi­ning on the table. [Fig. 1] Ver­reault thus alrea­dy sets up a res­ponse to the Plato’s alle­go­ry occur­ring in the sub­sequent shot. But Mikuan is not sim­ply offe­ring the “pri­so­ners” an enligh­te­ned account of rea­li­ty; she tells the ins­truc­tor hum­bly that wri­ting is just her way of seeing things. In other words, what Mikuan, and the film, are achie­ving here is not just a reap­pro­pria­tion of the posi­tion of the pri­so­ner retur­ning with access to higher know­ledge, but rather a dis­pla­ce­ment of this entire epis­te­mo­lo­gi­cal hie­rar­chy with the pri­ma­cy of inter­cul­tu­ral encoun­ter and an ethic of open­ness and exchange.

Fig 1

The notion of a plu­ra­li­ty of pers­pec­tives, alrea­dy ins­cri­bed in the plu­ri­vo­cal and poly­va­lent form of the novel, is cen­tral to the construc­tion of the film as well. Kues­si­pan, after all, accor­ding to Fon­taine, means “d’abord ‘à toi’, ‘à eux’, à ceux dont je parle,” invi­ting them to “exis­ter en dehors des pré­ju­gés.”32 Fon­taine explains why it was impor­tant for her to create so many strong characters:

Quand on parle des [A]utochtones, on a ten­dance à mettre tout le monde dans le même panier. Il fal­lait qu’on puisse voir la mul­ti­tude des pos­sibles. D’où l’importance de déve­lop­per d’autres per­son­nages comme Met­shu, le frère de Mikuan, leurs parents, sa grand-mère ou le chum de Sha­niss.33

This com­mit­ment to brea­king with a mono­li­thic dimen­sion of alte­ri­ty is also illus­tra­ted in a class­room debate where at least five dif­ferent nuan­ced pers­pec­tives, all Indi­ge­nous, confront the hypo­the­ti­cal sce­na­rio of a company’s new request to mine in Innu ter­ri­to­ry. Mikuan’s “cen­ter of the world,” then, is not exact­ly meant to represent or coin­cide with Indi­ge­nous expe­rience. She is not a proxy for the com­mu­ni­ty, but rather a sin­gu­lar voice within it.

The Ethics of Form

Along­side its pro­duc­tion pro­cess and nar­ra­tive, Verreault’s for­mal choices also contri­bute to what I have been cal­ling the “decen­te­ring of other­ness.” I alrea­dy unders­co­red how the film’s poe­tic edi­ting adds com­plex layers of mea­ning to each of its shots. I would like to turn now to two for­mal motifs that are cen­tral to the film’s ethics: the recur­ring pre­sence of maps and the empha­sis on the face. Kues­si­pan relies nota­bly less on swee­ping land­scapes and scenes of nature that tend to fea­ture pro­mi­nent­ly in Indi­ge­nous cine­ma. By contrast, the land around and beyond the bay is repre­sen­ted somew­hat idio­syn­cra­ti­cal­ly through qua­si-didac­tic maps: one is sho­wed on the back of a res­tau­rant kids’ menu, one in a train sta­tion and one on Google Maps, each with its own nar­ra­tive pur­pose. The first is used by young Mikuan to trace her way to Uashat’s sis­ter reserve of Malio­te­nam in order to reu­nite with Sha­niss. It high­lights the absur­di­ty of the reserves, which end up sepa­ra­ting not just set­tlers from First Nations, but also mem­bers of the same com­mu­ni­ty or fami­ly from each other. The second map indi­cates the tra­jec­to­ry of the train during the afo­re­men­tio­ned hun­ting trip and empha­sizes the vast expanse of nut­shi­mit within and beyond Qué­bec. The third map allows Mikuan to wan­der down Qué­bec City’s Rue Saint-Jean in “street view” as she dreams of moving there with Fran­cis. The film’s car­to­gra­phy, espe­cial­ly as the Porte Saint-Jean comes into focus, again ges­tures toward the conflict bet­ween the short his­to­ry of colo­nial set­tle­ment and the long his­to­ry of First Nations pre­sence. But yet again, Ver­reault leaves behind the nar­ra­tive of vic­ti­mi­za­tion, as each time the maps represent the cha­rac­ters’ empo­werment and moments of brea­king out phy­si­cal­ly or ima­gi­na­ti­ve­ly beyond the impo­sed boun­da­ry of the reserve. Young Mikuan is defying her parents’ refu­sal to take her to see Sha­niss, who had been sent away to live with her aunt after a trau­ma­tic fami­ly inci­dent. At what must be less than ten years old, she walks alone in the dark the over twen­ty kilo­me­ters sepa­ra­ting her from her friend the next mor­ning, a jour­ney that tes­ti­fies to her inde­pen­dence, cou­rage and devo­tion to those she loves. The train map again conveys the cultu­ral impor­tance of hun­ting and the adap­ta­bi­li­ty of the Innu in pre­ser­ving ele­ments of their tra­di­tio­nal way of life. Final­ly, Mikuan’s vir­tual trip through Qué­bec is accom­pa­nied by her voi­ceo­ver about people fin­ding “le che­min de leurs propres lois.” Like her brother’s suc­cess with hockey, Mikuan dreams of going to col­lege and explo­ring her lite­ra­ry talent. Ini­tial­ly, she contrasts the mobi­li­ty and ano­ny­mi­ty of the city with the enclo­sure of the reserve and searches for an escape from a space she finds “too small” and sti­fling. But as the film pro­gresses, her depar­ture from the reserve becomes less a form of rebel­lious flight than a way to connect fur­ther with her­self and her com­mu­ni­ty and build pride in her Innu iden­ti­ty. It can be read in connec­tion with the words of her final speech: “La fier­té est quelque chose qui se construit. […] Si mes pieds se laissent atti­rer par l’ailleurs, si ma tête ne se lasse pas d’explorer l’horizon, je sau­rai tou­jours où mon cœur est atta­ché.” This, ulti­ma­te­ly, seems to be the col­lec­tive mes­sage of the maps. They retain cer­tain remin­ders of domi­na­tion, but they are also ins­tru­ments of connec­tion and open­ness to the world, as well as tes­ti­mo­nies of adap­ta­tion that hold within them points of attach­ment of the heart.

The strength of this attach­ment is equal­ly mani­fes­ted in Kues­si­pan’s empha­sis on the face, which consti­tutes the film’s most stri­king decons­truc­tion of alte­ri­ty. This decons­truc­tion is achie­ved through a ple­tho­ra of shots pla­cing cha­rac­ters face to face, as well as through some par­ti­cu­lar­ly power­ful close ups. The film itself begins with one of these mas­ter­ful­ly craf­ted face-to-face shots. A mys­te­rious, bluish light trembles in the cen­ter of the dark frame, then splits into two over­lap­ping circles that conti­nue to waver until they final­ly sepa­rate. Faint whis­pers can be heard amid the sound of cra­shing waves, fol­lo­wed by foots­teps on peb­bly sand. Ulti­ma­te­ly, we rea­lize these are head­lamps on two bodies that emerge from the dark­ness and come into focus sur­pri­sin­gly close to the came­ra, such that the shot is unset­tling. It is two lit­tle girls that have been wal­king toward the vie­wer and, when they final­ly become visible, they turn away from us and toward each other, smile and giggle. This moment, as the Vol­lant fami­ly enjoys an eve­ning of fishing while on vaca­tion, frames the entire film and the sto­ry of Mikuan and Shaniss’s fusio­nal friend­ship. In this ope­ning scene of joy and sere­ni­ty, the girls lite­ral­ly shine light on each other, and in their play­ful and inno­cent gazes also lies their sym­bo­lic res­pon­si­bi­li­ty for each other. [Fig. 2] The later face-to-face shots of Mikuan and Sha­niss that punc­tuate the film echo this ini­tial moment and are almost always rela­ted to caring for one ano­ther: when young Sha­niss is cares­sing Mikuan’s woun­ded hand; when Mikuan is conso­ling Sha­niss after she has been bea­ten by Greg [Fig. 3]; when Sha­niss is com­for­ting Mikuan after her brea­kup with Fran­cis [Fig. 4]. In spite of the diver­ging life paths of these cha­rac­ters, the deep bond signa­led in these shots synec­do­chal­ly figures the lar­ger unbrea­kable soli­da­ri­ty of the community.

Mikuan’s rela­tion­ship with Fran­cis unfolds through many simi­lar tight­ly fra­med face-to-face shots. In contrast with the equi­li­brium pro­vi­ded by this setup, Ver­reault films their brea­kup scene through a tele­pho­to lens that slow­ly zooms out.

Fig 2
Fig 3
Fig 4

This tech­nique deem­pha­sizes their rela­tion­ship and res­pon­si­bi­li­ty toward each other, gra­dual­ly accen­tua­ting the envi­ron­ment sur­round- ing the two cha­rac­ters (Francis’s com­for­table two-sto­ry house and garage). [Fig. 5] [Fig. 6] Mikuan is not only faced with Francis’s weak­ness and his fai­lure to care for her after her brother’s tra­gic death, but also with a sud­den fee­ling of being out of place as she dis­traught­ly runs toward the came­ra. The spec­ta­tor, thus, not only wit­nesses this scene nar­ra­ti­ve­ly, but also through the diso­rien­ting affec­tive break crea­ted by its form. We see as Mikuan feels and are moreo­ver posi­tio­ned in the direc­tion of her flight, such that we are ethi­cal­ly inter­pel­la­ted by her vulnerability.

Fig 5
Fig 6

In addi­tion to this face-to-face aes­the­tic, Kues­si­pan’s use of close ups is also par­ti­cu­lar­ly power­ful. Two shots stand out through their nar­ra­tive place- ment and arres­ting visual construc­tion. The first is of Mikuan’s face, frag­men­ted by a bro­ken mir­ror as she is put­ting on makeup before her date with Fran­cis. [Fig. 7] The shot is stri­king but ambi­guous. We might be temp­ted to relate the image to the emer­ging fis­sures in Mikuan’s rela­tion­ship with Sha­niss, who calls her at pre­ci­se­ly this moment to ask if she’d like to spend time with her. 

Fig 7

Mikuan lies to her friend to avoid men­tio­ning Fran­cis, and the mul­ti­plied images of her face seem to rein­force her dupli­ci­ty in this moment. She also lies to her mother and removes the bea­ded ear­rings her mother has made for her as soon as she leaves the house. It is plau­sible, then, that the bro­ken mir­ror reflects Mikuan’s momen­ta­ry dis­tan­cing from her iden­ti­ty and her cos­me­tic fashio­ning of an arti­fi­cial, assi­mi­la­ted Self.

But an oppo­sing inter­pre­ta­tion is pos­sible as well: the shot could in fact be an image of strength. In this res­pect, a link can be made with the remar­kable visual poem by Kathe­ri­na Nequa­do, Nin Tapwe/Authen­tique (2019), which is part of the Wapi­ko­ni Mobile’s col­lec­tion. Nequado’s expe­ri­men­tal film, evo­king ele­ments sha­red by Ralph Ellison’s Invi­sible Man (1952) and Ing­mar Bergman’s Per­so­na (1967), cen­ters on the Indi­ge­nous woman’s body. The body is fra­med as a sil­houette against dif­ferent back­grounds and using dif­ferent forms of ligh­ting, such that it is at times sepa­ra­ted into super-posed layers. A simple, rhyth­mic voi­ceo­ver offers a series of affir­ma­tions with inter­titles in Ati­ka­mekw: “Je suis femme/Je suis belle/Je suis forte/Je suis capable/Je suis intelligente/Je suis autochtone/On peut être visibles/ Car nous sommes fortes.” Just before the voi­ceo­ver states “je suis autoch­tone,” a young woman’s som­ber face is fra­med as a reflec­tion in the shard of a mir­ror, and, after a second, she smiles. [Fig. 8] We then see a dif­ferent woman’s gaze reflec­ted through cracks in a mir­ror, much like the way we saw Mikuan. [Fig. 9] In the fol­lo­wing shot, the first woman reap­pears in a close up and removes a white mask from her face, loo­king direct­ly into the camera.

Fig 8
Fig 9

The connec­tion bet­ween Nequado’s and Verreault’s images is like­ly just a for­tui­tous coin­ci­dence, but Nequado’s short can still pro­duc­ti­ve­ly inform our rea­ding of Kues­si­pan. The fis­su­red mir­ror is a mate­rial condi­tion of defi­cien­cy exter­nal to the Self. Rather than allo­wing the “bro­ken­ness” to deter­mine how the femi­nine sub­ject views her­self, rather than inter­na­li­zing the cracks as part of her own self-image, Nequa­do invites the sub­ject to see her­self as whole des­pite and beyond the shards. More than this, in the vein of Franz Fanon, the mask sug­gests that seeing one­self through a white gaze creates the condi­tion of bro­ken­ness to begin with. Taking off the white mask brings the woman back to her authen­ti­ci­ty and allows her strength to be made visible. It could be, then, that the redu­pli­ca­ted frag­ments of Mikuan’s face—rather than signa­ling a moral fai­lure, a state of diso­rien­ta­tion or an iden­ti­ta­rian fracture—might simi­lar­ly high­light Mikuan’s strength in spite of exter­nal pres­sures. Read in this way, the shards reflect Mikuan’s inde­pen­dence and her abi­li­ty to play dif­ferent roles in order to fol­low her dreams while navi­ga­ting the conflic­ting forces around her.

Kues­si­pan closes with an unex­pec­ted close up of Sha­niss as Mikuan’s voi­ceo­ver lyri­cal­ly affirms the beau­ty of “la fille au ventre rond”:

Elle veut seule­ment, comme toutes les autres, faire des enfants. Une manière de faire gran­dir le peuple que l’on a tant vou­lu déci­mer. Comme une rage de vivre ou de ces­ser de mou­rir. Le vois-tu, ce regard qui brûle de l’intérieur? Des yeux d’Indienne, qui ont tout vu et qui s’étonnent de rire souvent.

As we hear these words, a hea­vi­ly pre­gnant Sha­niss enters a book­shop with her two young daugh­ters, picks up Mikuan’s book, Nut­shi­mit, and reads through it. Then, brea­king with the die­ge­sis, she looks direct­ly at the came­ra for just a second before the screen goes black. [Fig. 10]

Fig 10

We should note that Fontaine’s ten­der des­crip­tion of “la fille au ventre rond” is one of the most memo­rable in the novel and that its many pas­sages concer­ned with young mothers serve to dis­place Wes­tern ste­reo­types around teen pre­gnan­cy in Indi­ge­nous com­mu­ni­ties. Sha­niss, des­pite the nume­rous struggles she must confront—including her mother’s alco­ho­lism and her boyfriend’s abuse—, repre­sents what Joëlle Papillon des­cribes in detail as “la soli­di­té des filles plu­tôt que leur vic­ti­mi­sa­tion.”34 Papillon explains that Indi­ge­nous mater­ni­ty must be unders­tood against the his­to­ri­cal back­ground of scoops and boar­ding schools, as well as for­ced ste­ri­li­za­tion. Fontaine’s des­crip­tion of mothe­rhood in terms of love, beau­ty and revi­ta­li­za­tion of the com­mu­ni­ty thus repre­sents both empo­werment and an alter­na­tive to hege­mo­nic expec­ta­tions of a linear orga­ni­za­tion of life.

Papillon explains that “la nar­ra­trice se libère de la grille d’évaluation à tra- vers laquelle les Occi­den­taux ont ten­dance à éva­luer la valeur des filles et des femmes; cette ‘grille’ se base notam­ment sur l’apparence phy­sique, mais aus­si sur leur confor­mi­té à un par­cours spé­ci­fique, dont la mater­ni­té ado- les­cente est réso­lu­ment exclue.”35 The close up of Shaniss’s gaze toward the came­ra thus cap­tures the essence of Fontaine’s novel, with its shat­te­ring of ste­reo­types, but it also sums up the ethi­cal impe­ra­tives of the film as a whole. It direct­ly inter­pel­lates vie­wers, Indi­ge­nous and alloch­tone, with a deli­cate coun­ter-gaze infu­sed with strength and pride in spite of car­rying the lega­cy of geno­cide. It is defiant, but also calls for res­pon­si­bi­li­ty and connec­tion, for sha­ring the bur­dens of long his­to­ry and buil­ding a hope­ful future toge­ther. In this flee­ting glimpse of the resi­lient “yeux d’Indienne,” in the eyes that we hard­ly have a chance to grasp or com­pre­hend, we never­the­less unders­tand that it is our turn.

Per­haps the scenes and aes­the­tic choices I have dis­cus­sed here seem too subtle to have a tan­gible social or poli­ti­cal impact. I would argue, howe­ver, that the rela­ti­ve­ly acces­sible her­me­neu­tic enga­ge­ment the film invites and the ethi­cal impe­ra­tives that emerge from this active vie­wing pro­cess demons­trate the eman­ci­pa­to­ry powers of cine­ma at its best. I am spea­king of cine­ma not as a dis­se­mi­na­tion of a clear­ly defi­ned poli­ti­cal mes­sage, but rather as what Jacques Ran­cière has ter­med dis­sen­sus, brin­ging “back into play both the obvious­ness of what can be per­cei­ved, thought and done, and the dis­tri­bu­tion of those who are capable of per­cei­ving, thin­king and alte­ring the coor­di­nates of the sha­red world.”36 The kinds of rela­tio­nal ques­tions promp­ted by Kues­si­pan—Who am I? Where am I? What res­pon­si­bi­li­ties do I have?— replace the Self/Other dicho­to­my with decen­te­red notions of iden­ti­ty and alte­ri­ty. In so doing, the autho­ri­ta­tive legi­ti­ma­cy of the set­tler natio­nal nar­ra­tive is trans­for­med into a confron­ta­tion bet­ween short and long his­to­ry, and in this decen­te­red frame of refe­rence, Indi­ge­nous peoples can no lon­ger be “the Other” or even Others within: they sim­ply are equals. As Indi­ge­nous cine­ma in Qué­bec conti­nues to flou­rish, vie­wers will increa­sin­gly find them­selves face-to-face with the decen­te­ring aspects of cultu­ral métis­sage and its poten­tial to unset­tle cur­rent dis­tri­bu­tions of land and power.

Author Bio­gra­phy
Ioa­na Pri­biag
is Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor of French at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Min­ne­so­ta- Twin Cities, where she teaches fran­co­phone lite­ra­ture, post­co­lo­nial theo­ry and cine­ma. Her recent work includes articles on Jacques Ran­cière, Marie Vieux-Chau­vet, Michèle Lalonde, and Gas­ton Miron. She has co-edi­ted a spe­cial issue on contem­po­ra­ry poli­tics and poli­ti­cal theo­ry entit­led The Loca­tions of Poli­tics (cur­rent­ly under review) and is wor­king on a book manus­cript cal­led Shards: Spec­ta­cu­lar Frag­men­ta­tion in Fran­co­phone Post­co­lo­nial Lite­ra­ture.


  1. Bill Mar­shall, Qué­bec Natio­nal Cine­ma (Mont­réal-King­ston: McGill-Queen’s Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2001), 262.
  2. For exten­sive over­views of First Nations pro­duc­tions in Qué­bec, see Karine Bertrand’s “Le ciné­ma autoch­tone au Qué­bec: de la repré­sen­ta­tion à la ré-appro­pria­tion,” Contem­po­ra­ry French Civi­li­za­tion 44.2–3 (2019): 221–240, and Milé­na Santoro’s chap­ter “Reel Visions: Snap­shots from a Half-Cen­tu­ry of First Nations Cine­ma,” in Hemis­phe­ric Indi­ge­nei­ties: Native Iden­ti­ty and Agen­cy in Mesoa­me­rice, the Andes, and Cana­da, Milé­na San­to­ro and Erick Lan­ger, eds. (Lin­coln: Uni­ver­si­ty of Nebras­ka Press, 2018), 323–359.
  3. Michelle Raheja’s concept of “visual sove­rei­gn­ty” gene­ral­ly pro­vides the theo­re­ti­cal back­ground for rea­dings of Native cine­ma­tic pro­duc­tions. It refers to “the space bet­ween resis­tance and com­pliance whe­rein Indi­ge­nous film­ma­kers and actors revi­sit, contri­bute to, bor­row from, cri­tique, and recon­fi­gure eth­no­gra­phic film conven­tions, while at the same time ope­ra­ting within and stret­ching the boun­da­ries crea­ted by those conven­tions.” See Michelle Rahe­ja, Reser­va­tion Rea­lism: Red­fa­cing, Visual Sove­rei­gn­ty, and Repre­sen­ta­tions of Native Ame­ri­cans in Film (Lin­coln: Uni­ver­si­ty of Nebras­ka Press, 2013), 193. Lau­ra Gra­ham also sug­gests a shift in voca­bu­la­ry toward “repre­sen­ta­tio­nal sove­rei­gn­ty.” This not only opens the dis­cus­sion to Indi­ge­nous embo­died per­for­mance and audio, but also avoids “pri­vi­le­ging the visual mode and honors the impor­tance of sound in Native ideo­lo­gy and prac­tice.” See Lau­ra Gra­ham, “Toward Repre­sen­ta­tio­nal Sove­rei­gn­ty: Rewards and Chal­lenges of Indi­ge­nous Media in the A’uwẽ-Xavante Com­mu­ni­ties of Etén­hi­ri­ti­pa-Pimen­tel Bar­bo­sa,” Media and Com­mu­ni­ca­tion 4.2 (2016): 14.
  4. Mar­shall, Qué­bec Natio­nal Cine­ma, 262.
  5. Ber­trand, “Le ciné­ma autoch­tone au Qué­bec: de la repré­sen­ta­tion à la ré-appro­pria­tion,” 223.
  6. Karine Ber­trand, “Ciné­ma inuit et post-colo­nia­lisme: la reven­di­ca­tion de la parole des femmes dans le film Le jour avant le len­de­main (2008) de Marie-Hélène Cou­si­neau et Made­leine Iva­lu,” in French Cine­ma 13.3 (2013): 211.
  7. Rahe­ja, Reser­va­tion Rea­lism, 202.
  8. Rahe­ja, Reser­va­tion Rea­lism, 194.
  9. Kers­tin Knopf, Deco­lo­ni­zing the Lens of Power (Leyde: Brill, 2008), 63, the author’s emphasis.
  10. San­to­ro, “Reel Visions,” 326.
  11. Kwame Antho­ny Appiah, “Is the Post- in Post­mo­der­nism the Post- in Post­co­lo­nial?,” Cri­ti­cal Inqui­ry 17.2 (1991): 354; 356.
  12. See Laurent Dubreuil, Empire of Lan­guage: Toward a Cri­tique of (Post)colonial Expres­sion (Itha­ca: Cor­nell Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2013), 65–75.
  13. Michael Gott and Thi­baut Schilt, eds., Ciné­ma-monde: Decen­tred Pers­pec­tives on Glo­bal Film­ma­king in French (Edin­burgh: Edin­burgh Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2018), 10.
  14. Gott and Schilt (eds.), Ciné­ma-monde, 8.
  15. “Entre­vue avec Myriam Ver­reault (réa­li­sa­trice-scé­na­riste) et Nao­mi Fon­taine (co-scé­na­riste et auteure du livre Kues­si­pan),” (consul­ted on 17 Janua­ry 2022).
  16. Nao­mi Fon­taine, “Le fran­çais vu par Nao­mi Fon­taine,” Cégep Édouard-Mont­pe­tit (27 Februa­ry  2020), (consul­ted on 15 Janua­ry 2022).
  17. “Dos­sier de presse,” Fil­mop­tion inter­na­tio­nal, Kuessipan-Dossier-de-presse-FR.pdf (consul­ted on 23 Februa­ry 2022).
  18. Marc-André Lus­sier, “Kues­si­pan de Myriam Ver­reault : à toi. Et à moi.,” La Presse (30 Sep­tem­ber 2019),–09-30/kuessipan-de-myriam-verreault-a-toi-et-a-moi (consul­ted on 15 Janua­ry 2022).
  19. “Dos­sier de presse.”
  20. Lus­sier, “Kues­si­pan de Myriam Verreault”.
  21. Charles-Hen­ri Ramond, “Entre­vue avec Myriam Ver­reault,” Qué­bec Ciné­ma (3 Octo­ber 2019), (consul­ted on 15 Janua­ry 2022).
  22. Homi K. Bhabha, Loca­tion of Culture (Lon­don: Rout­ledge, 1994), 21.
  23. “Dos­sier de presse.”
  24. Bar­ry Bar­clay, cited Ste­phen Tur­ner, “Reflec­tions on Bar­ry Bar­clay and Fourth Cine­ma,” The Fourth Eye: Mao­ri Media in Aotea­roa New Zea­land, Bren­dan Hokow­hi­tu and Vijay Deva­das, eds. (Min­nea­po­lis: Uni­ver­si­ty of Min­ne­so­ta Press, 2013), 163.
  25. Tur­ner, “Reflec­tions on Bar­ry Bar­clay and Fourth Cine­ma,” 164.
  26. Fon­taine, “Le fran­çais vu par Nao­mi Fontaine.”
  27. Fon­taine, “Le fran­çais vu par Nao­mi Fontaine.”
  28. Caro­line Des­biens, Power from the North: Ter­ri­to­ry, Iden­ti­ty and the Culture of Hydroe­lec­tri­ci­ty in Qué­bec (Van­cou­ver: Uni­ver­si­ty of Bri­tish Colum­bia Press, 2014), 2.
  29. Des­biens, Power from the North, 2.
  30. Tur­ner, 163.
  31. Tur­ner, 163.
  32. Fon­taine, “Le fran­çais vu par Nao­mi Fontaine.”
  33. “Dos­sier de presse.”
  34. Joëlle Papillon, “La soli­di­té des filles chez Nao­mi Fon­taine,” Tan­gence 119 (2019): 42.
  35. Papillon, “La soli­di­té des filles chez Nao­mi Fon­taine,” 43.
  36. Jacques Ran­cière, The Eman­ci­pa­ted Spec­ta­tor, trans­la­ted by Gre­go­ry Elliott (Lon­don-New York: Ver­so, 2009), 49.