EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Armand Garnet Ruffo award winning movie A Windigo Tale' selected to be shown at two Ontario film festivals this Fall

Armand Garnet Ruffo's award winning film, A Windigo Tale which deals with the intergenerational impact of the residential school system in Canada, fram ed as both a mystery and a ghost story of sorts, will be shown at two film festivals in Ontario this Fall.

On September 22, it will be shown at the Cinefest Sudbury Film Festival (http://cinefest.com/films/windigo-tale/) and in Toronto on October 24 at the ImagineNative International Film Festival. (http://www.imaginenative.org/

Born and raised in Chapleau, Armand now is a professor at Carleton University, and in an email says he did "A lot of moving around, different schools and jobs, constantly writing," after leaving his home town.

"Then in 1989 I got a scholarship to attend the writing program at The Banff Centre in Alberta, and that more or less gave me the encouragement (and courage, I guess) to continue. I'm still at it after all these years supplementing my income by teaching literature and creative writing at Carleton University in Ottawa. And now the film stuff… on thing leads to another.

"Most recently a poem of mine will appear in the 2010 Best Canadian Poetry anthology (Tightrope Books)"

"Although both my parents came from out of town, my mom from Biscotasing and my dad from Metagama," Armand said, "I grew up in Chapleau and did my primary and secondary schooling there. For a kid growing up in the 70's, it was a marvellous place that offered the kind of freedom few kids in the city can even imagine. What comes to mind are the amazing lakes we have up there -- I probably spent just as much time in the water as I did on land. (If I wasn't in school I was probably out fishing!)

"And yes, as you noted, (in an email to him) I played some hockey like most kids in town, but for me it was mostly on the back river or midnight at the arena. This brings me to the friends I had growing up and the sense of community. In this regard, Chapleau was second to none. It is these things that I continue to carry with me through life.

On Nativewiki.org an entry reveals that Armand has also taught creative writing at both the Banff Centre for the Arts and the En'owkin International School of Writing in Penticton, British Columbia. (http://www.nativewiki.org/Armand_Garnet_Ruffo)

It adds that he is a a former director of the Centre for Aboriginal Education, Research and Culture and his work is strongly influenced by his Ojibwe heritage. "His first collection of poetry, Opening in the Sky, reveals an abiding interest in the complexities of Aboriginal identity in a multicultural society. His second book, Grey Owl: The Mystery of Archie Belaney, further 'raises difficult questions about voice and identity, aboriginal culture, human rights and the environment.' His third collection of poetry, At Geronimo's Grave, employs "Geronimo's life as a metaphor for the many abandoned native people on this continent, trapped in the slow-moving vehicle of another culture which is taking them nowhere.

"His latest book in progress, Norval Morrisseau: Man Changing Into Thunderbird, is a creative biography of the renowned Ojibway painter and founder of the Woodland School, Norval Morrisseau, Copper Thunderbird. In addition, he has written plays,stories and essays, which continue to appear in literary periodicals, including Red Ink, Rampike, CVII, and absinthe, and anthologies in both Canada and the United States. "

Armand first wrote A Windigo Tale as a play in 2001winning a CBC Arts Performance Award. Then he decided to turn it into a movie, which he wrote and directed.

Armand explained in a recent email to me: "As for the movie that I wrote and directed, it is called A Windigo Tale, and it essentially deals with the intergenerational impact of the residential school system in Canada. As you probably know from the numerous reports culminating in the Prime Minister's (Stephen Harper) apology in 2008, for the longest time what went on in those schools was Canada's dirty little secret. Generations of Native children were literally torn from their families and forced to assimilate, most often brutally, into Euro-Canadian society. Stories of physical and sexual abuse are rampant.

"Anyway, my story takes its title from the evil Windigo manitou, which according to Ojibway mythology is an insatiable cannibalistic creature, because I think what went on in those schools was a kind of consumption of the human spirit. Of course, I didn't simply want to write a didactic expose so the story is framed as both a mystery and a ghost story of sorts.

"Due to financing issues it took much longer than expected to finish it -- making a feature film in Canada is no small feat. But it is now finished and has been garnering attention and even winning a few awards. It won Best Picture and Best Actress (Jani Lauzon) in Edmonton (at the Dreamspeakers Film Festival) in June, and it was recently selected to close the ImagineNative International Film Festival in Toronto in October."

He added: "I could go on and talk more about the film and what made me want to make it, but I think it is best simply to see it. Lastly, I should add that although my parents have passed on, I still have family on Fox Lake Reserve, and I try to get up there and onto the lakes whenever I can."

Armand mentioned playing "midnight" hockey in the old Chapleau Memorial Community Arena. Let me explain. Armand was a member of the 1970-71 Chapleau Midgets hockey team that I was coaching, and I had made it clear that the players were to be on time for practice at eight a.m. Saturday morning. It was amazing. When I arrived shortly before eight, there they were all dressed sitting in the dressing room ready to go.

Some time later Jamie Doyle, the team captain told me that they arrived at the arena around midnight, entered through a back door and played shinny all night, adding this way they were sure to be on time.

Congratulations to Armand on his literary achievements and I hope that if any readers are in Sudbury or Toronto this Fall when A Windigo Tale is being shown, they will attend, and yes as he notes, Chapleau was "second to none" as place to grow up. My email is mj.morris@live.ca

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Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet


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Following the American Dream from Chapleau. CLICK ON IMAGE