VIFF Film Review - WaaPaKe (Tomorrow) (2023)
It’s been just over two years since the remains of 215 children were discovered near the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, BC. Since then more and more sites have been searched and the number of unmarked graves continue to rise across Canada. The Indigenous community continues to grieve those children who never made it home from residential school as this undeniable truth is finally revealed to the world. Those who did make it home, the survivors, are still dealing with the trauma from what they went through. In “WaaPaKe” (tomorrow), filmmaker Dr Jules Arita Koostachin speaks with residential school survivors, their children, and grandchildren to hear their stories. She also takes the spotlight to share how residential schools affected her own family. “Every part of who I am has been impacted by my Mom’s experience.”
This project is deeply personal for Dr Koostachin as her mother bravely shares her truth. Rita speaks of how as a child she was sent to the residential school by boat. She recalls the fear and confusion she felt as they were kept in the dark, cold bottom of the vessel and were forced to remove their clothes. “They treated us like we were kinda diseased or something...they treat you like animals...I’ll always remember that.” The abuse, neglect, and dehumanization these children went through is devastating to hear but so important for us to understand the cruel truth of residential schools in our country.
“Why would they call you savage? I didn’t really understand. I was just a kid.”
The stories you hear in “WaaPaKe” carry so much pain to this day. It’s a dark reminder that these atrocities are not far in the past but very much in the present and carried down through intergenerational trauma. The images, photographs and footage that accompany this documentary are incredibly moving. With Truth and Reconciliation Day and Orange Shirt Day coming up this Saturday, I would highly recommend you catch this film to bear witness to these survivors’ stories and to understand how intergenerational trauma is still very prevalent in the community. Through the trauma and suffering though, there is still hope for intergenerational healing. “Tomorrow means hope, it means we have a future.”
WaaPaKe is screening at the 42nd Vancouver International Film Festival which runs September 28 – October 8.
Tickets and info at viff.org