Kuessipan Montreal Film Premiere

The cast and crew of Kuessipan made an appearance at the Montreal premiere screening on Tuesday, October 1st, 2019. Hundreds attended the premiere, presented by Cinéma du Musée at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.  

Kuessipan is the touching story of two Innu girls named Mikuan and Shaniss, respectively played by Sharon Fontaine-Ishpatao and Yamie Grégoire. Mikuan and her friend have to overcome many obstacles. Mikuan struggles with her identity and the complexity of dating a white man named Francis, played by Étienne Galloy. Viewers get a beautiful and sometimes awkward love story between two young individuals coming from two different cultures. Beyond the differences, however, they find what makes them similar.

“We realized Innu people know more about us than we know about them,” said producer Félize Frappier. “The goal was to shed light on the Innu community, show their values and deconstruct prejudice.”

Much of the Kuessipan script was realized in collaboration with the original novelist Naomi Fontaine. “She [Fontaine] lived between two worlds,” said co-writer Myriam Verreault. “She thought that what was on TV did not accurately represent what happened back home.” 

Co-writer Myriam Verreault being interviewed at the premiere of Kuessipan on Oct. 1, 2019. Photo by Jean-Philippe Giroux.

Fontaine-Ishpatao confessed that she was reluctant to audition when she heard that the movie was co-written by a white woman, and initially refused to take on the role. Her strongest aversion was that she thought it would be “another Pocahontas movie”. However, Fontaine-Ishpatao and Verreault sat down and talked for over an hour about everything, from the actor’s life on the reserve to the socio-economic issues that touched her community. After getting a sense of Verreault's intent behind making the project, she felt more comfortable and decided to audition. 

Aside from borrowing elements from Naomi Fontaine’s life, Kuessipan is also a collaboration with hundreds of community members. It was shot on the Innu community of Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam and uses two Innu actresses in the lead roles. Actors shared their lived experience through their roles, from Indigenous language preservation to overcoming addiction. 

The story is a raw, honest and incredibly human depiction of the modern reality of First Nations in Québec. It talks about pride, liberty and the importance of community and the people who raise you. 

Kuessipan was presented at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival and the Quebec City Film Festival, where it won the Grand Prize for outstanding films from Quebec. The film is set to be featured during the Festival International du Film Francophone de Namur in Belgium on Oct. 2 and 3.

The cast of Kuessipan posing for pictures at the premiere on Oct. 1, 2019. Photo by Jean-Philippe Giroux.

Jean-Philippe Giroux is the host of Hidden Gems, a show focusing on artists outside the realm of popular music in Canada. It plays every Thursday at 3:00 PM EST.