Waterhen First Nation filmmaker releases feature film
- Andréa Ledding
Cree filmmaker Rueben Martell now has a feature film out, “Don’t Say Its Name.”
“It’s a story about an environmental protestor...it’s like a supernatural eco-thriller,” said Martell, who comes from Waterhen First Nation.
The idea of the film came to him in a sweat lodge, meeting someone that was an embodied spirit, which gets portrayed in the film.
“As a Native person knowing that there’s a spiritual world, there’s more to the world than us, more to the land that anything. Look at BC right now,” Martell said, referencing recent floods and connecting that to logging, as well as the RCMP invading Wet’su’wetn during the floods and chaos to silence Indigenous people peacefully protesting.
“It just reminds me of Oka. But that’s Canada. Man... the film, it’s almost not like a horror film, it’s like a personal experience. It’s just that unbelievable that it’s believable,” he said.
A theatre showing with a panel discussion happened in Saskatoon on November 27th with Martell and some of the actors answering questions.
“I hope people come away with thoughts about murdered and missing Indigenous women, but also to think about what Canada is. What I wanted to accomplish with the film was to not make trauma porn or feel bad... I wanted to make a horror film that made people think.
“It’s just to get people thinking and push those walls a little bit further because we need to start getting along in terms of everything that’s happening around us.”
The film was shot in Alberta because Saskatchewan has had no film tax credit since 2012.
It is available on iTunes and pay-per-view platforms.
Growing up at Waterhen First Nation in the 1980s, Martell didn’t believe Indigenous people could get into the film industry, but he saw a poster to learn screen writing and followed up.
He got started in film at Paved Arts in Saskatoon and has gone on to work in the industry, including on Corner Gas.
“I didn’t think it was for me, growing up on the reserve, pre-internet... it was open to us, but it was a hard journey. It still is.”
He remembers showing up at a shoot as the assistant director trainee and being ordered to stack chairs until the lead locations manager stepped in and stopped the man, who said he was, “just trying to get this guy to do his job.” The man had made that call based on his appearance as an Indigenous male, Martell said.
“I had the power to fire him but I didn’t, and he got fired the next day. He was being racist on a Native show, that’s not going to last long. And maybe people are more conscious of it, but people can still be full-on racist and deny it,” he said.
“I’m 45 and it took this long to get my first feature film made and it wasn’t for lack of working,” Martell said.
Right now, the ImagineNative Film + Media Arts Festival has a contest for screenwriters and Martel encourages youth to step forward.
He suggests making as many short films as possible and watching good and bad films to learn as much as possible about what makes a good story.
He is glad to guide anyone who wants to reach out to him for advice.
“Always be passionate about your story because nobody is going to care more about your story than you. Learning the technical part of film-making, there’s just three or four things you need to learn and then get out there and shoot it... It’s about being persistent and consistent, you can’t just get out on weekends. It’s got to consume your mind and everything you do.”