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WLFN-Focused Film ‘Sugarcane” wins at Sundance Film Festival

Press Release

February 5, 2024

Directors Julian Brave NoiseCat and Emily Kassie received the jury prize for directing in the U.S. documentary category for the film Sugarcane at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

The film follows several members of Williams Lake First Nation and neighboring communities in the context of WLFN’s investigation into the abuse and disappearance of children at the former St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School. Among others, the film highlights the first-hand experiences of Charlene Belleau, Julian Brave NoiseCat, Ed Archie NoiseCat, WLFN Kukwpi7 Willie Sellars, Anna Gilbert, and the late Rick Gilbert.

Sugarcane was made by filmmakers Julian Brave NoiseCat and Emily Kassie. Since their introduction to Kukwpi7 Sellars in June of 2021, the two got to know the extended Sugarcane community very well, capturing over 1000 hours of footage.

Julian Brave NoiseCat is a member of the Canim Lake Band and descendant of the Lil’Wat Nation of Mount Currie. He is a writer, filmmaker and aspiring oral historian. A fellow of the Type Media Center, he is currently writing his first book, We Survived the Night, which will be published by Alfred A. Knopf in North America, Profile Books in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth, Albin Michel in France, and Aufbau Verlag in Germany. Emily Kassie is a Canadian filmmaker and investigative journalist who has produced work for The New York Times, PBS, and Netflix.

Speaking of the film, Kukwpi7 Sellars notes:
It’s everything we could have hoped for. I believe that this documentary could be a very important tool for reconciliation in this country and beyond, and that it will have a healing impact for generations to come. We extend a heartfelt thank-you to the filmmakers Emily, Julian, and Chris (Lamarca, Director of Photography), and to the community members who worked with them to see this project through. It is because of the bravery of the survivors of St. Joseph’s Mission who told their stories that this film will shed important light on the atrocities that took place in the Canadian residential school system. Just as importantly, this film will also showcase how vibrant our culture still is, and how strong, resilient, and committed to healing our people are. We hope that everyone will try to see the film.

At this time, Sugarcane is not available to view in Canada. Please bear with us. A screening of the film will be coming to our community in the new year. As the subject material is highly sensitive, WLFN will ensure that health and safety provisions are in place for the in-community screening. Stay tuned for more information about the Williams Lake / T’exelc premiere.


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