c̓əsnaʔəm: the city before the city

Canada 2017. Dir: Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers. 75 min. DCP

“If ever a document called out to be in the core curriculum for B.C. schools, this cool-headed, lovingly made film is one.”

“Vital and illuminating.”

c̓əsnaʔəm: the city before the city was a multi-site museum exhibition opened in 2015 at the Musqueam Cultural Centre, the UBC Museum of Anthropology, and the Museum of Vancouver. Blackfoot/Sámi filmmaker Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers’s attending film, released two years later, deftly distills and deepens the impact of that groundbreaking show — which, for many non-Indigenous visitors, shed light on the underknown pre-colonized past of Greater Vancouver. Tailfeathers’s documentary, created in collaboration with the Musqueam First Nation and the project’s curatorial team, chronicles the 2012 struggle of the Musqueam community to halt construction of a 108-unit condo development on the unceded land of their ancestral village and burial ground, c̓əsnaʔəm (aka Great Marpole Midden). Drawing on interview footage shot for the exhibition, Tailfeathers crafts an elucidating and compassionate account of the Musqueam people’s history (pre- and post-contact) and living culture by offering them an outlet to tell their own story, in their own voices.

— preceded by —






Canada 2014. Dir: Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers. 14 min. DCP

Mixing archival footage, re-enactments, and animation, Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers’s poignant documentary explores how past injustices impacted the marriage of her Blackfoot mother and Sámi father. Best Documentary Short, Seattle IFF, 2015.