Matriarchs and Buffalo pull no punches, yet lead us with care

Niitsitapi writer and director Ahnahktsipiitaa (Colin Van Loon) takes us beyond the veil of traditional media and transports us directly into another realm, where past, present and future are one; where colonial rules and assumptions are forgotten; and where we can finally get to the truth of the matter.

In this stunning, cinematic VR experience, we’re invited to watch as the narrative unfolds all around us, on a dream-like plane of existence where spirits and time flow and merge, and stories come to life and dance before our eyes. Inside this immersive virtual world, two Indigenous trickster poets in mirrored red suits and long braids guide us on a journey, in which community protocols confront our notions of personal responsibility. The pair’s sharp wit and caustic humour will be familiar to anyone who has spent time in First Nation communities, and their comradery keeps us at ease as we explore some of the darker sides of living life in Canada while Indigenous.

Matriarchs and Inii (buffalo) rule this virtual realm. They pull no punches, yet they lead us with kindness, bringing us face-to-face with some of the grim realities Indigenous Peoples have experienced. We explore the stories of two Indigenous men wounded by the colonial tradition of systemic racism. These stories disrupt the status quo, laying bare the benign cruelty of colonial oppression, and dare to ask, “Now that you know, just what are you going to do about it?”

This unforgettable experience will stay with you long after it’s over. Challenging us to act on what we’ve learned, THIS IS NOT A CEREMONY calls on all who’ve watched to bear witness and share what they’ve seen and heard, to learn from these tragedies—and to never forget.

Ahnahktsipiitaa (Colin Van Loon), Writer & Director | James Monkman, Artistic Director & Visual Effects | Jessica Dymond, Editor | Dana Dansereau, Producer, NFB