I’m glad I started my last day of the VIFF watching the documentary Call Me Human. I never knew of poet Josephine Bacon until I saw it. I’m glad I did.
The film is an intimate look at poet Josephine Bacon. It’s also a look at the friendship between her and the documentary’s director Kim O’Bomsawin. She was born in Innu territory in Pessamit, Quebec. Like other Innu children in her community, she was forced to grow up in the Residential School system in Canada. It was there she endured the abuses and the pressures to abandon her culture and language. Her young adult years would mean trying to make a living. She’d escape her village to live in Montreal, sometimes sleeping with her friend in abandoned places. She would find work as a director and lyricist. She would work as a translator and interpreter with Elders and would listen to their words closely.
It wouldn’t be until after she turned 60 that she learned that she was a poet. She feels she’s not a poet. She feels she has a natural way of storytelling. Her first collection of poetry would not be published until 2009. It was in both French and Innu and it received renown for its importance of cultural preservation and storytelling. Bacon has continued to have poetry books published. She has won numerous literary awards such as the Prix des Libraires de Quebec, the Indigenous Voices Award, and the Order of Montreal.
The film is more than a biography. The film also features a lot of imagery of Josephine as she goes to various places. She’s often seen with other members of her Innu community. It is there she senses a culture whose traditions and ways of life are dying as the younger Innu are more modernized. She is seen looking out to the natural landscapes. It is in her and her culture that she has this feeling. She is seen at places of her past. It is there where she tells of her past history, both bad and good. She is seen over at a friend’s house for a dinner on Innu-cooked fish. It is there we see the life-long connections she established.
The intention of the film is not just to get us to learn who Josephine is, but to experience what it is that makes her poetry. We see Josephine in many dimensions. She calmly tells the stories of her life, but you can tell when heartbreak is in her, even when she doesn’t show it. We see her looking out to nature both with awe, admiration and sadness. She loves the beauty but she quietly hurts because it is stolen land. Her readings of her poems are done across a lot of imagery from landscape images to personal images to animation. Her poems may be in French or in Innu. All of which paint a picture of who Josephine is and how she finds her voice.
The appearance of the Innu ways is as important as Josephine’s use of the Innu language in some of her poems. Innu is a language spoken by only 10,000. The Innu ways were common before residential schooling tried to get children to abandon. Now the difficulty is modernism. There’s fear the traits and traditions will be lost. That’s why Josephine’s poems are so important. They keep the Innu language and the Innu ways of expression alive. That has a lot to do with why she has won so many awards. Those who see this documentary will be lucky to meet a gem of a talent.
Top respect goes to director Kim O’Bomsawin. Kim is not just the director of the film but comes across as a friend. She helps Josephine as she goes from place to place. She even helps with radio interviews, visiting friends and is there who Josephine accepts an award. Kim does an excellent job of showcasing Josephine’s poetic voice as well as the land that Josephine embraces and the traditions she tries to keep alive.
Call Me Human is more than a documentary about a Canadian poet. It’s also about a people and a way of life that was suppressed and oppressed at first but is now experiencing a revival thanks to people like Josephine.
Hi. This is an article that I have delayed posting here for the longest time. Hope you like it.
It was declared on July 9, 2011. South Sudan was now an official independent nation of its own. Its population is an estimated 8,000,000. The capital city is Juba, a city of an estimated 400,000 people. Hearing about what the people of South Sudan went through, you’d feel their independence from the main Sudan was hard-earned.
Firstly Sudan was originally a joint condominium between Britain and Egypt until they declared independence in 1956 as the Republic of Sudan. Despite Sudan being independent, it was not unified. The northern and southern parts of Sudan were sharply divided. The main divide between the two was based on ethnicity but also about religion; the northern part of Sudan was predominantly Muslim while the southern part of Sudan had a Christian majority. Conflict between Northern Sudan and Southern Sudan had already existed for a year and would continue until 1972. That war would be known as the First Sudanese Civil War. Half a million people were killed. It would take an agreement in Ethiopia in March 1972, known as the Addis Ababa Agreement, that would end that civil war. The goal of the Agreement was to address and appease concerns of the southern Sudan liberation and succession movement. This would help to give some autonomy to the Southern Sudanese region and would give peace to Sudan for almost a decade.
The one thing the Agreement failed to do is dispel the tensions that caused the first Sudanese Civil War. Then in 1983, Sudan’s President Gafar Nimeiry declared all Sudan an Islamic state, The Southern Sudan Autonomous Region was abolished on June 5, 1983 and the Addis Ababa Agreement was ended. This would lead to the Second Sudanese Civil War. This war would last from 1983 to 2005 and would have one of the highest civilian death tolls since World War II. Two million people were killed as a result of the warfare, famine and disease caused by the conflict. Four million people from Southern Sudan have been displaced during the times of the war. At the start of that war, the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement was formed as both a rebel group and a political party in response to the crises.
The war finally ended in January 2005 after a comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed. The purpose of the agreement, known as the Naivasha Agreement, was to develop democratic governance countrywide and share oil revenues. It further set a timetable by which Southern Sudan would have a referendum on its independence. The referendum happened during the week of January 9-15, 2011. Almost 99% of South Sudanese voted for independence. Independence was declared on July 9, 2011 and the United Nations recognized South Sudan’s independence on July 14th.
Despite being the world’s newest nation, South Sudan still faces problems and challenges in the time ahead. One problem is that the famine that is occurring mostly in Somalia also includes South Sudan and other nations. Another problem is that conflict between Sudan arose again a month ago with the South Kordofan conflict that still exists today. Another problem is of possible intertribal enmity within the country. One challenge South Sudan will have to face in the future is organizing the nation and its rights amongst the people. It is currently on a human rights watch by the UN, and rightly so. The SPLA may have been able to get South Sudan its independence but is also known for human rights atrocities of their own. Even the CIA has suspected of genocide in southern Sudan last year. One thing the elected President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, has promised is respect to freedom of religion. Kiir himself is Catholic with a Muslim son.
South Sudan: the world’s newest nation. Will it be a better, wealthier, more developed, more just country that Sudan was and still is? Or will it have its own problems or atrocities? Only time will tell.
WIKIPEDIA: South Sudan. Wikipedia.com. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Sudan >
WIKIMEDIA: Regions Of Sudan. Wikimedia.com. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Regions_of_Sudan.png>