Sky Hopinka’s Chrysalis Fellowship supported feature film maɬni — towards the ocean, towards the shore will open the 2020 Images Festival. The news headlined today’s programming announcement released by Images. Hopinka’s hybrid documentary recently screened to great acclaimed at Sundance. Read a review about the film’s premiere at Sundance in January 2020 (below).
Małni – towards the ocean, towards the shore
(dir. Sky Hopinka, New Frontier)
A dashboard-mounted smartphone streams a video of a drum circle. Who needs a GPS when you have elders to guide you? The ceremonial drumming returns at regular intervals throughout Sky Hopinka’s debut feature Małni – towards the ocean, towards the shore, accompanying the peregrinating images of the Ho-Chunk Nation filmmaker and descendant of the Pechanga tribe. The lyrical travelogue revisits the Chinookan myth of the Origin of Death where the Talapsus (Coyote) and Lelou (Wolf) debate human life, existence, and its (im)possible circularity: does one spirit come back when they die?
“Perhaps it’s not exactly as I told it,” says a narrating voice. At times seemingly told from the point of view of the visiting spirits, the film transfers a piece of oral history onto the semi permanence of the screen. In doing so, Hopinka’s narration is generous, nomadic and fluid. It comes and goes with the bodies of water that connect the two protagonists, Sweetwater Sahme and Jordan Mercier. They share their thoughts on ritual and traditions and the place those have in their lives. In a park, the camera halts at a picnic table: Jordan explains in chinuk wawa (an indigenous language of the Pacific Northwest) why he wears his hair long. His words are subtitled in English while Sahme’s English gets chinuk wawa subtitles when she talks about her difficult youth. As Hopinka puts down and then picks up his camera, we follow the streams of water to the oceans in swaying movements. To Sahme, the water is cleansing in the form of a waterfall. To Mercier, it carries as a river. As she’ll soon be a mother and he already is a father, the subjects of afterlife and rebirth are discussed while hiking or in the warm presence of Sahme’s granny sleeping in the background. Images of powwows and of the Museum of Archeology in Vancouver accompany and deepen the roaming and intuitive journey into contemporary Chinookan culture.
The importance of the film’s exploration of Indigenous language, representation and storytelling is echoed by the current Wet’suwet’en protests against the Coastal gaslink pipeline and their international solidarity actions. With Małni, Sky Hopinka finds new and resilient ways to tell stories that have too long been silenced.
The Images Festival program can be found here: https://imagesfestival.com/