New film tackles drugs on Stoney Nakoda Nation

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Using traditional ways of storytelling with a modern twist, Stoney Nakoda youth are hoping to create awareness and bring change through a new film.

Funded by a grant from the Canadian Crime Prevention program, the crew worked on the scenes for the film last weekend, using Stoney actors and filming on the reservation and surrounding area.

“We collected stories from people in the community then blended them together and dramatized it, creating (anonymity) for the residents,” said Jason Gondziola, cinematographer.

“Hopefully it will be well received.”

With drug use prevalent on the Stoney Nakoda Nation, the crew loosely-based the script on real-life events on the reservation, including one incident where an elder lost her grandson and daughter to accidental drug-related overdoses in the span of a week.

“I did have relatives that passed away from overdoses,” said Kes Lefthand, 23, scriptwriter.

“I do hope (the film) reaches out to people and lets them know what happens and who is affected by your choices. And hopefully people not from reserves realizes what happens on the rez – it’s different from other communities.”

One of the lead actresses, J’naya Hunter, 14, said she thinks there is a drug problem on the Nation and she is hoping to raise awareness with the film.

The film is a continuation of the first video, A New Warrior for Hope released on the Nation in January 2015.

The first film was also “loosely based” on an incident on the reservation where a shooting occurred during a robbery. The main character, Gage Beaver, plays the protagonist who tries to protect his big sister while struggling with drugs and bullying with elder Sykes Powderface trying to guide the youth.

“My concern is the youth. What are we doing? What is wrong? I want to get the message to parents, we are facing a big problem,” Powderface said in-between filming the scenes at the Morley Community School.

“After we showed the first film, I had parents come up to me and say ‘We knew what was going on but we didn’t know it was this bad and impacting young people.’”

Since the first film premiered on the Nation, it has started a discussion about the drug culture and people are starting to “open up about it,” Powderface explained.

“The community, the struggling youth have stood up and spoke out. They said ‘help us’ and that is what they are saying now … people are starting to get motivated and mobilized,” Powderface said.

The footage collected over a four-day period will now be taken and edited with a pending release date for the fall.

“We want to make sure the message gets out to people,” Powderface said.

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