Fred Rickard interview by Reaghan Tarbell, October 2008
FR: My name is Fred Rickard and I am from Moose Factory,
Ontario, in northern Ontario, and I'm of Moose Cree descent.
RT: Tell me about Moose Factory.
FR: Sure. Moose Factory is an island, it's about three
miles long and one mile wide, we have a population of about three
thousand people. Part of the island is federally owned, and the
other part is a reserve. It's a pretty isolated community; it's
on an island in the middle of Moose River. We are pretty isolated
during the times were we can't go back and forth by boat, and,
during the winter, on the ice road.
RT: Growing up in Moose Factory, did you have any exposure
to Native filmmaking or Native films?
FR: When I was growing up I had exposure to Hollywood
.Seeing cowboys and Indians was my first impression
of Native films
.Back in the '70s I had an opportunity to
order films from down south, from major distributors, such as
Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Brothers, and [I] started
showing those movies at a local community theater. That's how
I got involved in film and being interested in the film presentation
aspect of it. My younger brother got into film as well through
watching those films.
RT: How did that evolve into the Weenebeeg Festival?
FR: I was living in Toronto for about seven years, and
I took in a lot of theater, music and film. I attended a lot of
the film presentationsItalian film festivals, international
film festivals. It wasn't until I moved back home in late 1998
or '99 that my brother [Paul M. Rickard] and I discussed maybe
starting a film festival in our community. The reason was, when
I moved back home, I sort of missed going to various film festivals,
and since Paul had already made about two filmsthat is how
the interest in bring our own film festival to Moose Factory came
aboutjust Paul and I discussing one summer in the garage
that maybe we should present films from aboriginal artists.
It was in 2000 when we discussed the plans for having our first
festival in the community, a two- or three-day festival. We came
up with the Weeneebeg Aborginal Flm and Video Festivalweeneebeg
means the area surrounding our community. We decided to select
aboriginal films from Canada, as well the U.S. Besides my brother
being a filmmaker, there were two other local filmmakers, and
that is how the basis of our film festival came about in presenting
local, regional work to the community. With the help of my brother
Paul, because he was already living in Montreal and had been to
different communities and countries, [it was easy to identify]
films that would be of interest for our community members.
RT: One of the things I really enjoyed about your film
festival is how it's so community oriented.
FR: One of the main aspects of the Weeneebeg Aboriginal
Film and Video Festival was to present works by aboriginal artists,
and have the festival become part of the community. This involved
getting the community to be involved and presenting the screenings
to different types of people. For example, we take our screenings
to our elders; the films that we program for the elders are for
elders, the films related to life culture and language. We also
have youth screenings; we pick films related to youth issues,
or youth aspects of films; we take them to the high school and
we screen. We get the community involved; we want the film festival
to be part of the community, and that's the most important thing.
RT: Can you tell me about one or two films or filmmakers
who have made an impression on you, or you feel strongly about
FR: One filmmaker would be my brother, because I've supported
his work and he's supported our festival in such a way that he
has created a voice for our community and our people. It is important,
very important to our film festival that we, that the community,
appreciate our local film makers. My brother Paul would be one
of the people that inspired me to really appreciate aboriginal
RT: Has it just been recently that you've gotten into
the producing field as well?
FR: Being the co-executive producer of a local film festival
has given me the opportunity to look into the production side
of film. I was involved with my brother's short drama, The
Winter Chill, and I was involved in the production [of Okimah]
one year when he did the film on location in the Moose Factory
area. And that interested meseeing the actual production
side of things, how a film is created-I knew I was really
interested in filmmaking.
So I was trying to see where my interests lay, whether it was
directing a film, or editing a film, or cinematography, but I
sort of fell into [producing] because I am already a producer
of a film festival, getting [it] organized, getting funding sources
in place for the cost of the festival. I got involved with producing
some local youth film workshops in my community, and there were
a couple of organizations that approached me in regards to overseeing
the production of [some] youth films which I was involved in at
the time. That led to two locally-produced films that I produced
and worked with the youth to create.
Back in 2007 I got together with a filmmaker from Pheonix, Arizona.
We sat down last summer when he came up to do a youth dance workshop
for our community and he was looking for someone to oversee the
production of his short film. So we got to talking about it, and
asked me if I wanted to try my hand as producer for his short
drama, which I said, "OK." In October 2007 we're finally
shooting this film, and that's how I got involved with producing.
RT: What are your plans for the next five years? Do you
see your festival growing or do you see yourself moving more into
producing films yourself?
FR: My plans for the next five years or so are to continue
to be involved with our festival, but I would like to see it develop
in the next couple of years to be self-sustaining and to have
the community run the festival. I would like to see myself get
involved in producing more film. I would probably like to, one
day, make a film myselfI have a couple of ideas that I'm
working on, an outline, short screenplay, short storymaybe
directing short films.
RT: Can you tell me briefly what any of those ideas might
FR: What I would like to (see is) Native people, our own
people, represented on film. I've seen a lot of films from other
countries, like Japan, China, Italy, Germany. Those films celebrate...their
way of life...their history, their language and their heritage.
I (would like) to make a short film that represents our people
from Moose Factory (in terms of) who they are in a normal situations
and...to document it (as a) celebration of language, love and
RT: Are you fluent in your own language?
FR: Yes, I am. I'm about probably close to 100% fluent,
and that comes from my mother and father and speaking the language
everyday in our lives. When I was going to school in Southern
Ontario, away from my communitybecause our parents wanted
us to get educated; it was the priority in their lifeI promised
myself that I would never lose my language. I have kept that promise
to myself, and continue to speak my language every chance I get,
especially communicating with my father and also to the other
elders in my community; it's always helped me keep my language
RT: As a selector, what do you hope to see in the 14th
Annual Native American Film and Video Festival?
FR: I hope to see films that celebrate our people's language,
our people's culture, our heritage, our way of life
connection, I think it is, that is what I'm looking for
it will create discussion, and that it will create a positive
discussion, not only the negative aspects of the different types
of issues that we have, such as drugs, alcohol, and the residential
school issues. You know, we do have problems, but I think we also
have positive lives, and those are [what] I hope to seepositive
stories about our people
some positive outlook for our people,
for our future.
Fred Rickard - photograph by Tim Warner