Elle-Maija Tailfeathers’ five-year journey is nearing its apex.
The producer and director of the documentary Kimmapiiyiptssini: The Meaning of Empathy wanted to share how her home of Kainai is trying to address the opioid crisis.
“I’m so proud of Kainai and so proud of all the people working so hard in the community to find solutions to this crisis,” Tailfeathers said.
“I’m really looking forward to sharing our community’s story with the rest of Canada.”
The meaning of empathy: Documentary examines the opioid crisis and community work being done on Blood Tribe
The documentary has already been shown at film festivals like the Hot Docs film festival in Toronto, winning the emerging Canadian director award and picking up an audience choice award at the Calgary International Film Festival.
Now it’s set to open in theatres across the country, beginning with Vancouver’s VanCity Theatre on Nov. 5.
Tailfeathers wants to spread awareness about the Blood Tribe’s approach to drug treatment.
“I don’t know if many people realize Kainai is a national leader when it comes to response to the opioid crisis,” Tailfeathers said.
“There’s some really incredible, radical changes that have happened and I think this film is a true testament to all of the work that’s happening there.”
Over 50 people are featured in the documentary, which is a portrait of the collective work of healing from the impacts of substance abuse and drug-poisoning deaths on the southern Alberta First Nation.
“We see the efforts of front-line workers like paramedics,” Tailfeathers said. “Then we see the lives of people who are living with active addiction and people who are also in recovery.
“There were a lot of people who were generous in sharing their stories.”
Tiffany Young Pine is part of a new initiative on the reserve: the Blood Tribe Opioid Task Force.
A recovering addict, she’s currently 19 months clean and thinks the film will help not only those trying to fix the problem, but also those facing addiction.
“I see it everyday — people struggling with their addictions — and being an addict myself, we get too scared to actually come forward and want the help, because we’re scared to get judged,” Young Pine said.
Tailfeathers hopes people watching the film will follow its title and leave with a little more empathy for others.
“Just a deeper understanding of the reality of Indigenous people living with substance use disorder,” Tailfeathers said. “Understand how the history of colonialism… residential schools, the Sixties Scoop and the Indian Act, how all of these things have impacted our people.”
The documentary will have staggered openings in eight theatres throughout November. In Lethbridge, it will debut at the Movie Mill on Nov. 12.
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