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Manitoba Sixties Scoop documentary finds audience in West Africa

Bradford Bilodeau in a still from Lost Moccasin.
Bradford Bilodeau in a still from Lost Moccasin. Roger Boyer / Koj-B Films

A Winnipeg filmmaker says he never expected his documentary short on the Sixties Scoop to become the most-viewed film at a festival in West Africa. In fact, he didn’t expect his film to be seen on the other side of the world at all.

Roger Boyer’s film, Lost Moccasin, focuses on Bradford Bilodeau, a local survivor of the Sixties Scoop — the mass removal of Indigenous children from their families and communities — and his journey to reconnect with a family member to talk about the experience.

The documentary was one of only two Canadian films shown at the Accra Indie Film Festival in Ghana — which was held virtually in late July due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“I was looking for documentary film festivals to enter Lost Moccasin into, and the Accra film festival was one of the festivals that popped up,” said Boyer.

“They didn’t have an entry fee, so on a whim, I just entered.”

“I forgot about it, and four or five months later, I get an email that says, ‘hey, we want your film in the festival.’

“I’d forgotten that I entered it so I had to look it up again to see who this festival was — I didn’t realize they were located in West Africa.”

Boyer said he felt honoured to be part of the festival, which included more than a thousand films from eight countries, and that he had the opportunity to share a small piece of the experience of Canada’s Indigenous people to a worldwide audience.

Clip from the film Lost Moccasin
Clip from the film Lost Moccasin

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“I think any time anyone hears any stories about Indigenous people when they’re not from North America, it’s a very interesting subject,” he said.

“I feel that people are interested in hearing our stories, our history — that’s something that’s not even being taught in our countries very well.

“I think it really works because Bradford puts his heart out there and he really shares his story, and that’s the most important aspect of it.”

Bilodeau said the attention Lost Moccasin was given online as part of the Ghanaian festival reverberated on this side of the globe as well, and brought more attention to his personal story among his own friends and colleagues.

Read more: Indigenous languages could be at forefront of reconciliation process, says Winnipeg community organizer

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“It’s funny how when it was shown on the other side of the world, more people saw it on this side of the world — and I’m here,” he said.

“It took that film festival to get it pushed in the right direction to let everybody see it … so I was quite happy that they were able to pick it and show it in their film festival, for everybody here to see it. So it was great.”

Bradford Bilodeau in a still from Lost Moccasin.
Bradford Bilodeau in a still from Lost Moccasin. Roger Boyer / Koj-B Films

His story, he said, is much more than the 11-minute documentary short could pack in, but it’s a good introduction to what he experienced, and he’s been using the film as a starting point for speaking engagements.

“It basically whets everyone’s whistle to say, ‘oh, that’s what he went through’,” said Bilodeau.

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“I can grab three people off the street, ask them all the same question, ‘do you know what the Sixties Scoop is?’… and maybe one out of three will say, ‘I heard something about that.’

“The first thing they ask me is ‘were you born in the ’60s?’ No, that’s what it was called, the Sixties Scoop, but we all know it went through the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s as well.”

Bilodeau said that while people in other parts of the world may not have experienced the same situation of being taken from their parents, the feeling of missing a parent is something people can relate to, regardless of culture.

Accra Indie Film Festival founder Evan Eghan.
Accra Indie Film Festival founder Evan Eghan. Facebook / Evan Eghan

Evan Eghan, the Accra festival’s founder, said the subject matter of Lost Moccasin likely touched a chord with many African viewers, even if there’s little to no familiarity with Canada’s history with its Indigenous population on that continent.

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“I was dumbfounded that authorized officials will be going around to kidnap children to serve their own selfish purposes,” he said.

“We do have quite similar stories here in Africa with Nigeria, especially — but people who engage in child trafficking and kidnapping are individuals who want to make money off the families of these innocent children.”

Eghan said he’d love to see more films dealing with these types of social and cultural issues entered into the festival in the future.

“It highly resonated with the African audience as it was the highest-viewed film at the festival virtually.

“And it has a direct link to the African kidnap cases as well as child trafficking. So Lost Moccasin has a direct resonance with the African audience because we currently also experience a lot of similar situations,” he said.

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“We would like to see films of this nature over and over again, because these are the social issues that films are meant to talk about and to be used to enlighten the audience as well.”

Read more: Afro-Prairie Film Festival brings Black cinema to Winnipeg

Boyer praised the festival for its handling of the virtual environment — especially since the experience let him participate in a way that wouldn’t have been possible under normal circumstances, as flying to Africa was not in his budget.

“Being virtual really allowed me to share it online, to attend their virtual panel discussions and just watch some of their films, so that was a good thing that happened,” he said.

“I think there’s a whole audience out there who was interested and wanted to know about the Indigenous peoples’ history here in North America.

“I think stories like this really opened their eyes to the reality that a lot of Indigenous people face.”

National Indigenous History Month closes with virtual concert
National Indigenous History Month closes with virtual concert