We Were Children, a film that chronicles the lives of two survivors of the residential schools system in Canada, was among the Canadian entries to the 2012 Vancouver International Film Festival, Sept. 27 to Oct. 12.
The docudrama tells the stories of Lyna Hart and Glen Anaquod, who were four and six, respectively, when they were taken from their families and put into church-run residential schools. Both were subjected to the cultural assimilation that was part of the federal government’s policy to “kill the Indian in the child.” Both were subjected to physical, emotional and sexual abuse.
“We have to tell the story,” says Lisa Meeches—one of the film’s executive directors— whose own parents and older siblings went to residential schools. “It’s important for me, for my non-aboriginal friends and colleagues and for Canadians to know the truth.”
While the film documents the abuse that both Hart and Anaquod suffered, it also documents their indomitable spirit. A particularly poignant scene shows Hart being forced to hold her own tongue as punishment for speaking Cree. With saliva running down her chin, she escapes the pain and humiliation by imagining how the horses on her family’s farm would drool. “I used my imagination to feel safe,” says Hart in the film. “I retreated there a lot.”
Shot in Winnipeg and St. Pierre-Jolys, Man., We Were Children will be available on DVD on April 12, 2013, through the National Film Board, at www.nfb.ca. –