Lisa Jackson


Lauren Grant Lori Lozinski


Arts Canadian History Children Cree Drama First Nations Health Indigenous Music Residential Schools
  • Release Date 2010
  • Running Time 6 minutes
  • Closed Captions No
  • Availability Canada, USA

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SAVAGE, described by the creators as "a residential school musical," evokes memories of the residential school experience as children in a classroom make their imaginary escape from bitter realities of their daily experiences. In Cree with English subtitles.

It's late summer, the 1950s, and a young native girl is on her way to residential school. A Cree woman in her kitchen sings a lullaby in her native language. When the girl arrives at her destination, she undergoes a transformation that turns the woman's gentle voice into a howl of anger and pain. Once installed in the residential school, life is stern and there aren't many chances to be a kid...except when no one is watching.

This award-winning short drama, directed by Lisa Jackson, comes out of a project called "The Embargo Collective," a project of Toronto's imagineNATIVE Festival. A group of seven international indigenous filmmakers interested in collaboration and open to artistic challenge were brought together and asked to construct a set of obstructions that would encourage each of them to push their creative boundaries in making a short film. Two common principles prevailed: (1) the theme was Patience and (2) the films were to contain no spoken English. Documentary filmmaker Lisa Jackson was asked to create a musical that would include heavy metal, set decoration, and include both actors and non-actors. SAVAGE is the result.

Co-opting the denigrating term "savage" for the title, Lisa Jackson turns the tables on the language of colonization and captures our attention. Meeting creative challenges posed in a powerful way and then dubbing the resulting film as "a residential school musical," turns our heads again. Without trivializing a dark part of Canada's history, SAVAGE invites the viewer to reconsider residential schools in a way that pushes the boundaries of thought. While exploring creative perimeters, the film muses on the capacity of children to harness the power of imagination as shelter from the most unpleasant of circumstances.
- Sylvia Jonescu Lisitza

Award(s): 2011 Genie Award for Best Live Action Short Drama; 2010 Yorkton International Short Film Festival: Golden Sheaf Award for Best Multicultural Film; 2010 Leo Awards: Best Actress (Skeena Reece) and Best Editing (Hart Snider and Brendan Woollard).

Director's Notes:

SAVAGE comes out of an initiative of the imagineNATIVE film festival in Toronto, called "The Embargo Collective." The festival selected seven international indigenous filmmakers and brought us together to discuss our work, the creative challenges we're facing and-ultimately-assign obstructions to each other for the making of a short film. Being a documentary filmmaker, I was assigned a musical that would include heavy metal, set decoration, and working with both actors and non-actors. For all of the filmmakers, there was a universal theme of Patience and no English allowed. We will premiere the films October 17, 2009 at the festival's 10th anniversary and lead a workshop on the experience of working collectively to spur each other's creativity. SAVAGE is my response to the challenge. I've used my "obstructions" to bring a fresh take, at times even a humorous one (yes, there are zombies), on Canada's residential school history, which–sadly–is still unknown to many Canadians. As in my first short film SUCKERFISH (which looks at my own history with my mother and native identity), with SAVAGE I'm trying to subvert stereotypes about "native issues" and use an unconventional approach to get underneath preconceptions and deliver an emotional experience. My mother was a residential school survivor who was taken away at age five, and I've always known I would work to bring a deeper awareness of this part of Canada's history to light. To that end I'm writing a feature film on the subject, and am immersed in historical research. This short musical is a stand-alone "gesture" inspired by the subject I feel so passionately about.

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