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s-ywyw Awaken

Stories of hope and homecoming intersect as Indigenous multimedia changemakers learn and document the teachings of their Elders.

A printer-friendly version of this page 91 minutes
SDH Captioned>>

Directed by Liz Marshall
Produced by Ecko Aleck, Liz Marshall, Alfonso Salinas,
Charlene SanJenko
Editor: Eddie O..
Cinematography: Eve Anandi Brownstein, Liz Marshall, Inder Nirwan, Diana Parry
Music: Ecko Aleck
Writers: Ecko Aleck, Liz Marshall, Alfonso Salinas, Charlene SanJenko
Executive Producer: Liz Marshall

"Beautiful...a film about teaching and learning, modeling care...and deliberate restoration through these journeys of reconnection." Joanna Hearne, Assoc Prof. Film Studies, Univ of Oklahoma
Ecko Aleck of the Nlaka'pamux Nation (Lytton, BC,) Alfonso Salinas of the shshlh Nation (Sunshine Coast, BC,) and Charlene SanJenko of Splatsin of the Secwépemc Nation (Shuswap, BC,) are learning and documenting the traditional cultural teachings and legacies of their Elders, including the impacts of genocide resulting from Canada's Indian Residential School (IRS) system.

Calling the audience's attention to the filmmaking process of narrative collaboration between an Indigenous and settler team, this character-driven documentary connects the transformative stories of three Indigenous multimedia changemakers and their four Elders.

Infused by Indigenous ceremony, s-yéwyw: Awaken walks alongside the process of intergenerational healing.

Grade Level: 10-12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2024     Copyright Date: 2023
DVD ISBN: 1-961192-11-X

"We are still learning how to hear Indigenous peoples. Canadians as a whole deal with Indigenous communities as abstractions, statistics, and the center-pieces of political and legal debates. s-yèwyw: Awaken is real, insightful and powerful. It compels people to listen, to appreciate the power and depth of Indigenous loss, and to celebrate the strength of Indigenous resilience."
Kenneth Coates, Chair, School of Indigenous Governance, Applied Science and Management, Yukon University, Author, A Global History of Indigenous Peoples: Struggle and Survival

"The collaborative nature of the film foregrounds the practice of being an active listener, of stepping back, taking in people's stories, and engaging with them to create a best path forward. Three participants directly receive sage advice in s-yéwyw: Awaken, but one senses how knowledge will pass on to many more empathetic ears as viewers immerse themselves in these teachings."
Pat Mullen, POV Magazine

"This is an intimate and moving exploration of Indigenous resilience and healing while being attentive to the issues of intergenerational trauma experienced by First Nations in Canada. Inviting viewers into the spiritually infused landscapes and traditional homelands of the Nlaka'pamux, shshlh, and Secwépemc First Nations, s-yéwyw: Awaken accompanies the journeys of Indigenous peoples to heal, love, and build better futures for themselves and their communities. The film is both thorough yet accessible to a wide range of education levels and can be enjoyed by audiences outside of formal educational contexts."
Blaire Morseau, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and American Indian and Indigenous Studies, Michigan State University, Author, As Sacred to Us: Simon Pokagon's Birch Bark Stories in their Contexts

"s-yéwyw: Awaken is a beautiful film about Indigenous healing and resurgence. Following the stories of those separated from their families by residential schools, those adopted out from their communities during the Sixties Scoop, and those affected by intergenerational trauma, the filmmakers make space for voices of testimony, resilience, recovery, and return. At the center of the film - structured around the formation of a new Canoe Family - are Elders who share both difficult histories and instruction for those younger generations who seek to learn culture and return to their Nation's traditions. It is a film about teaching and learning, modeling care, thoughtful protocol, and deliberate restoration through these journeys of reconnection."
Joanna Hearne, Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies, University of Oklahoma, Author, Smoke Signals: Native Cinema Rising

"s-yéwyw: Awaken is quiet in its tone, but ferocious in its heart...With its focus on renewal and healing, s-yéwyw draws the viewer into the connection that humanity has with the environment and asks them to reconnect with spiritual realm."
Steve Norton, Screenfish

"In s-yéwyw: Awaken the intergenerational traumas of three First Nations are told in firsthand accounts by Elders to explain all that was taken through the residential school policy and the struggles to survive. From the next generations, the reclaiming of pride, song and prayers is realized through the big dream of creating a canoe family to revive and awaken the culture of these Indigenous coastal First Nations. This film invites the viewer to join as generations engage in their healing journey."
Angelique EagleWoman, Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota Oyate, Director, Native American Law and Sovereignty Institute, Mitchell Hamline School of Law

"This inspirational film weaves a spellbinding story of the restorative decolonial efforts undertaken by young Indigenous leaders and elders on their journey to healing, empowerment, re-connection and Indigenous sovereignty. This film is a true example of collaborative cinematography that deals with heavy legacy of residential schooling and traumas of colonial violence."
Olga Ulturgasheva, Siberian Eveny, Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology, University of Manchester

"Documenting three individuals reconnecting with their community, s-yéwyw: Awaken wonderfully captures survivance in the face of overrepresentation of Aboriginal children in the child welfare system. With stunning community-based visuals, this documentary is an excellent teaching tool that is sure to prompt larger conversation both within and outside the classroom."
Daniel Sims, Tsay Keh Dene, Associate Professor of First Nations Studies, University of Northern British Columbia

"Very much a team effort, the film emphasizes that film-making itself is part of the cultural work."
Liam Lacey, Original Cin

"Memorable...Gorgeous imagery...Lyrically compelling music."
Charlie Smith, Pancouver

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DVDs include public performance rights.

DVD Features
SDH captions for the deaf and hard-of-hearing and scene selection.

Awards and Festivals
People's Choice Award, Planet In Focus International Environmental Film Festival

Canadian Studies
Environmental Ethics
Film Studies
Indigenous Peoples
Race and Racism
Social Change
Social Psychology

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... more Reviews

"s-yèwyw: Awaken offers viewers an engaging intergenerational account of the power of storytelling straight from the voices of Indigenous knowledge keepers. Viewers can travel alongside younger members of Native communities as they learn about the art and craft of canoe making and water navigation as a form of reconciliation, truth telling, and ultimately an approach to healing due to the legacies of colonial violence."
Kiara Vigil, Associate Professor of American Studies, Amherst College, Author, Indigenous Intellectuals: Sovereignty, Citizenship, and the American Imagination, 1880-1930

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