Lesson number one: when attending a film festival at the TIFF Light Box in Toronto, if you don’t have one of those super cool press passes, for the love of everything holy pre purchase a ticket. As I was anxiously waiting in a lengthy overflow lineup to attend a compilation of shorts that was part of the Imagine Native Film Festival, the excitement in the foyer was so palpable it seemed to have wrenched my eye balls from my head as my focus darted around the crowded foyer. I was in the midst of a family reunion, members of which had traveled from the ends of the earth to experience such camaraderie. Everyone belonged.

Lesson number two: strength is showing your growth, not show casing your grievances. By injecting humor and humility into issues of being not only native but a member of humankind, the shorts in Matrilineal Matters dealt the themes of hardship, optimism, and the path to insightfulness while being navigated through the ever changing  entity that is life.

Lesson number three: there cannot be an honest understanding of life for a female without acknowledging the likeness of our male counterparts. Truly, it is the interactions of the two that impacts each facet individually and cannot be teased apart without negating the fragility of gender. It wasn’t until I was heading for the foyer, warmly anticipating my sweatpants, that I knew in my heart I could not leave before hearing the men’s side in Masculine Moves: Short Program; conveniently placed half an hour after its sister counterpart.

Strength: Comparisons of its meaning for both Indigenous Males and Females

And my cinematographical study reached its apex at this thesis: In close investigation of the themes and portrayals in the disparate shorts, the concept of strength and “being strong” is viewed in a gender neutralizing manor.

Here me out.

In each short film, both male or female inspired, strength was the thread running through each segment. Females showed strength through their ability to hold their communities and families together, despite how they continuously overcome loss and displacement, and with grace and good humor. Female strength shows a balance between being a warrior in the face of adversity and being a whimsical wealth of comfort and empathy.

Conversely, Masculine Moves shorts depicted a disappointment in the gendered way the meaning strength has been conveyed to men. Each short carefully peeled away layers upon layers of expectations about what it is to be a strong man, exposing the misconceptions of entitlement and brutish physical dominance that have poisoned the relationship between the sexes. The true meaning of strength seen in the protagonists of each short was seen in their the ability to care for and help families flourish and their willingness to see past insubstantial societal conventions to embrace a deeper understanding of their individual needs that are not gender prescribed.

And thought I sat in the dark absorbed in thoughts of the complexity of humankind, I had never felt so enlightened.

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