Programmed by Jason Burnham
In this inspiring story of cultural resilience and family bonds, Aisha, an Indigenous girl living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, navigates the pressures of conforming to a colonial education systems. Her personal desires and cultural heritage compel her to learn outside of imposed state structures. Clever, creative and fierce, the Kwakwaka’wakw girl pulls no punches as she critiques the colonial institutions that seek to fit her into a box she finds un-relatable and unjust at the core. Supported by her community leader and residential school survivor mother Gunargie, Aisha has ambitions to explore other alternative modes of learning while asserting her Indigenous sense of identity and knowledge.
A word from Tënk
“Whoever teaches without emancipating stultifies,” philosopher Jacques Rancière wrote in his book The Ignorant Schoolmaster, where he addresses key issues in the field of education with great originality. Drawing from the thinking of revolutionary educator Joseph Jacotot, who saw instruction much in the same way as freedom, meaning that it is not given but taken, Rancière advocates for equality and universal intellectual emancipation.
His words resonate well with this first feature-length documentary from Jadis Mariette Dumas, which confronts us with the disputes about various understandings of education while following Aisha, a brilliant young Kwakwaka’wakw woman struggling to find her place in an educational system miles away from the rituals of transmission of her ancestors. It’s an institution that can quickly become dehumanizing, especially when it creates obstacles to connecting with one’s identity, culture and language.
The real beauty of this film is its ability to present the understanding, respect and mutual attention that thrives between Aisha and her mother, who still grapples with trauma from the residential school system and who tries, with infinite resilience, to provide her daughter with the things she was violently denied in her own childhood. But beyond the specifics of this situation, the relevance and universality of Aisha’s questions speak to us all.
How can you balance the expectations of an educational system with the personal aspirations and cultural heritage of each child? What does learning look like outside of standardized education? These are important questions. It’s time to relearn how to learn, while giving ourselves the space needed to do so.
Tënk’s programming assistant