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Anishinaabekwe programmer prepping for imagineNATIVE festival

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Kaitlynn Tomaselli, a Sheshegwaning First Nation member, is the program manager for the upcoming imagineNATIVE festival in Toronto.

By Sam Laskaris

TORONTO – Kaitlynn Tomaselli now feels at home in her work environment.

But that wasn’t always the case for Tomaselli, a member of Sheshegwaning First Nation on Manitoulin Island, who was hired to work for the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival in 2019.

“This is a large festival with much importance to everybody around the world,” Tomaselli said of the annual Toronto-based event. “So being able to get it there was this feeling of I hope I do a good job.”

Tomaselli was originally hired to work as a digital interactive assistant for the event. Since 2021, however, she has served as the festival’s program manager, overseeing all the artistic programming, including film, audio, and digital interactive, for imagineNATIVE’s year-round and festival initiatives.

“It was intimidating, but once I got here, I realized how special and doable it is,” Tomaselli said.

Tomaselli was among the speakers at an imagineNATIVE news conference held Sept. 15 in Toronto to introduce the festival programming this year.

The 24th annual festival will be staged in person from Oct. 17-22, with the online programming being held from Oct. 23-29.

A total of 14 feature films and 70 shorts films will be shown throughout the festival. There will also be 21 digital interactive works and 17 audio works.

imagineNATIVE has become the world’s largest Indigenous festival showcasing film, video, audio, digital, and interactive media made by Indigenous screen-content creators.

This year’s festival features the work of creators from 71 First Nations.

“What I realized working here is that we’re all Indigenous Peoples from around the world,” Tomaselli said. “So, we’re all at the same level of learning and getting to know each other. And that’s what this festival is all about, getting to know each other and create community with each other.”

Tomaselli is also pleased that there are no longer any COVID-19 pandemic restrictions in place and people can attend in-person sessions.

“It’s amazing to be back in person,” she said. “I love gathering. It’s really important that the community get together and have those conversations with each other and being able to see what other people are doing. And it also gives you that awareness that you’re not alone and you have people with you and beside you.”

Tomaselli is also proud of the programming festival organizers have on tap this year.

“We have tons of special activities coming up, primarily with the digital interactive,” she said. “What’s really exciting is that we’re always seeing new media coming through.”

For example, this year’s festival includes robotics initiatives including augmented reality. The theme for this year’s festival aims to showcase works that “make our spaces feel like visiting grandma/totah/kookum.”

This year’s festival will commence with a welcome gathering including the Manitou Mkwa Singers, Cotee Harper, Skye Dancers, and poet Jennifer Alicia. Various DJs will also perform at the opening night party including the headliner Boogey The Beat.

The festival will also include an art crawl, which will be held at various locations throughout Toronto on Oct. 18.

The feature films that will both open and close the festival were also announced at the Sept. 15 news conference.

Fancy Dance, a film about a woman who takes care of her niece after her mother disappears, will open the festival.

Fancy Dance marks the feature film directorial debut of Erica Tremblay, a filmmaker based in New York City.

And Hey, Viktor!, a mockumentary that serves as the directorial debut for Samson Cree Nation actor Cody Lightning, will be the closing night feature film.

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Lead Facilitator – Circle Process

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Rice will serve as a mentor for program featuring budding Indigenous writers

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Inherent rights highlighted at the 8th annual Anishinabek Nation Lands and Resources Forum

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By Kelly Anne Smith NORTH BAY— Concerns of climate change, extreme mining claims, and the health of the Great Lakes were heard over three days at the 8th annual Anishinabek […]

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