Now Streaming: NFB’s ‘Waseskun’ Lets the Sunshine In

Courtesy of the NFB

By Pat Mullen

The Cree word waseskun describes a parting of the clouds. It evokes a moment of clarity and brilliant sunshine after a storm. Either literally or metaphorically, waseskun refers to a new cycle of serenity following a dark time.

This sentiment echoes throughout Steve Patry’s powerful documentary Waseskun, which is now streaming for free from the NFB. The film takes audiences inside Waseskun Healing Center in Saint-Alphonse-Rodriguez, Quebec to consider therapeutic modes of rehabilitation. The centre draws from spiritual and traditional Indigenous practices to help criminal offenders make sense of their past actions, heal, and return to the community.

Patry follows up his 2015 documentary De prisons en prisons with this look at male offenders that draws upon the empathy and view for the broader picture that is at the heart of Waseskun Healing Center’s philosophy. While giving voice to the participants and understanding the social factors that contribute to the struggles, the film ultimately searches for the break in the clouds in Canadian society. The film earned two Canadian Screen Award nominations including Best Documentary Feature despite a limited run on the festival/community screening circuit—so its online release is a ray of sunshine of its own sneaking through the clouds.

Synopsis: Waseskun is the logical follow-up to Steve Patry’s De prisons en prisons, nominated for a Jutra Award for Best Documentary in 2015. It was while shooting this film that Patry first heard about the Waseskun Healing Center, a rehabilitation facility for Indigenous male offenders of all ages and from all communities. Incorporating spirituality and traditional medicine in its therapeutic process, Waseskun’s philosophy is that healing does not come from erasing one’s past, but by regaining one’s cultural identity and traditional values.

Granted unprecedented access to the centre, Patry focused his lens on the daily lives of those who reside at this unique facility. With empathy, but free of naïveté, Patry chronicles the difficult journey of men who have survived hellish family and social situations and now struggle to be reintegrated into society. Waseskun offers an uncensored look at the complex process of rebuilding men at war with themselves.

Watch Waseskun below from the NFB:

Waseskun, Steve Patry, provided by the National Film Board of Canada