Experience one of the most acclaimed documentaries of 2021 now that Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy is available to stream. Released today from the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), the documentary directed by Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers is an urgently therapeutic portrait of the opioid crisis. Eschewing sensationalism and leading with care, Tailfeathers observes the impact of the epidemic in her own community. She takes her camera inside the Kainai First Nation to witness the effects of addiction upon members of the tribe and the social factors that contribute to the problem. Moreover, Kímmapiiyipitssini is ultimately about community’s solution as Tailfeathers’ favours the story of first responders and frontline workers who demonstrate how harm reduction saves lives.
“At the time that I started making this film, there were so many stories in the news media about my community, and a lot of them were framed from this trauma porn perspective, telling stories of sorrow, and grief, but leaving out the work being done in the community,” Tailfeathers told Kelly Boutsalis in POV’s cover story on Kímmapiiyipitssini. The director explained her process, including during the lens upon her mother, Dr. Esther Tailfeathers, as one voice among many to counter problematic representations of both addiction and Indigenous communities.
“It became very apparent that there isn’t one singular voice within my community in terms of experience, understanding or perspectives towards addictions and harm reduction in general,” added Tailfeathers. “I came to understand that there needed to be a really rich diversity of voices from within the community. I think that’s something that we often don’t see in documentaries is a wide breadth of voices.”
Kímmapiiyipitssini drew wide acclaim upon its release for Tailfeathers’ empathetic portrait of the crisis. It won the Emerging Canadian Filmmaker Award at Hot Docs and the Audience Award in the Canadian Spectrum, along with the Audience Award at the Calgary International Film Festival and the Colin Low Award for Canadian Director at DOXA. The film’s run culminated with Tailfeathers winning the Ted Rogers Feature Length Documentary Award at the Canadian Screen Awards earlier this year.
Watch Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy below from the NFB:
Presented in partnership with the NFB.