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Bridges to the North building awareness about the "act of being Indigenous"

President of Theymedia, Tony McGuire, spoke to Dougall Media recently about the upcoming Toronto premiere of Bridges to the North and described the impact that the film has had so far.
A still from Bridges to the North.

THUNDER BAY — The road to awareness is paved with authentic stories – the type of story Tony McGuire captures with his documentary, Bridges to the North.

Produced by Theymedia in partnership with Marten Falls First Nation and Webequie First Nation, Bridges to the North is set to premiere in Toronto on April 2 at the Royal Cinema.

Following an initial premiere at Thunder Bay’s Vox Popular Media Arts Festival – where the film won a People's Choice Award – this past September, McGuire has shared Bridges to the North with various organizations, including high schools across the region, to get a sense of how well the information is presented ahead of the film’s Toronto premiere.

Speaking to Dougall Media, McGuire said the film has tested well with different age groups.

“I really wanted to get a feel for how this doc would fit in terms of giving information about the act of being Indigenous – not having access to roads, expensive groceries, all these imposing pandemics,” McGuire said.

The documentary was shot over the course of 15 years and is told from the perspectives of Marten Falls First Nation and Webequie First Nation in their combined effort to build permanent roads to their respective communities. While there is a focus on getting the access roads built, the film also explores matters particular to living on-reserve such as suicide, food security, and isolation.

McGuire said positive responses to the film have highlighted how it “humanizes” the story and everyone involved. He expressed his gratitude for being trusted to tell such an important story.

“I’m happy that Marten Falls and Webequie chose me to tell their story. There’s not a lot of opportunities for First Nations people to tell another First Nations’ story – or it’s told through a lens that isn’t accurate to the story being told,” he said.

He added that Bridges to the North is a “very Anishinaabe” story.

And McGuire has a personal connection to the subject matter other than his own Anishinaabe roots as a member of Gull Bay First Nation.

The film opens following the death of one of McGuire’s cousins who lived in Marten Falls First Nation and tracks the aftermath, trying to find a way for members of the community to travel to Thunder Bay for his cousin’s funeral and, without an access road, left with no other option than expensive flights.

“I tend to tell it through my lens, so my experiences are in the film,” McGuire said.

“That very basic issue of someone dying in the city and how you get to their funeral became the start of the doc.”

With the recent milestone deal struck between the provincial government, Marten Falls, and Webequie, the all-season road network is one step closer to reality – accelerated somewhat by ongoing mining prospects/development in the Ring of Fire – but still has a ways to go.

For his part, McGuire said he looks forward to premiering Bridges to the North in Toronto and hopes the film will become a resource for folks who are unaware of First Nations experiences in the North.

“I’m super excited. I hope it goes mainstream in terms of being a source of information about these kind of topics,” McGuire said.

“I’m honoured to have told the story.”