One of the Cochrane Movie House's 100-person theatres was about three-quarters full Nov. 7 with locals, cast and crew members in attendance to watch the locally-produced film "Abducted" in an early screening event.
The film is made up of an all-Alberta cast, crew and post-production team and is written and directed by Daniel Foreman and produced by Sharlene Millang. Cochrane resident Steven McMichael was the co-producer and action director for the film, which is a product of Horned Serpent Productions, a subsidiary of the Indigenous film corporation Treaty 6 Productions in Edmonton.
The movie was filmed entirely in Alberta, including parts of Vegreville, Leduc, Edmonton and surrounding areas.
"Abducted" is influenced by the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) crisis. The film is loosely based on the real-life events of the murders and disappearances of women, most of whom were Indigenous, at the hands of a presumed serial killer who is assumed to be responsible for a series of seemingly related incidents in the Edmonton area since the 1980s.
The film follows Derrick Desjardins (Joel Oulette) on his vision-led quest to find his sister Lakota Simpson (Olivia Kate Iatridis) who goes missing after being drugged and kidnapped at an Edmonton bar.
McMichael told the audience after the screening, he hopes they can better understand the issues facing Indigenous people and Canada, addressing the past and present, whether its the missing and murdered Indigenous women or the impacts of residential schools.
"If we actually take a second to look at this and understand it, I think it would make the world a better place," he said. "I'm hoping that when people see the credits roll they go 'holy crap, this is actually happening.' That was my first feeling when I read Dan's script."
Originally from Colorado, McMichael has been in the film industry for about 25 years and has worked on many big-budget films including "The Hobbit," "X-Men," and "The Revenant," mainly as a stunt coordinator role.
McMichael said the subject matter of "Abducted" drew him in to the project because it is an important story to tell.
The film addresses racism and themes of police brutality toward First Nations, Metis and Inuit people.
In the movie, Desjardins and Lisa Cardinal (Pooky G), Simpson's friend, receive harassment and abuse from rural RCMP in their search for Simpson. Only one Edmonton detective tries to help them.
"This is definitely a story that needs to be told," McMichael said. "I read hundreds and hundreds of scripts and when I read this one, it moved me, especially with what our Indigenous people are going through and trying to preserve who they are."
Stoney Nakoda Elder Koko Powderface was in attendance for the screening. She said the RCMP did very little to help her family search for her niece Tawny Poucette-Lefthand, who went missing in Eden Valley over 10 years ago and was found dead days later, 500 metres from her home. Powderface said she believes her niece was murdered.
"We had no help from RCMP," said Powderface. "Search and rescue did a ground search and the whole band did a walk through and she wasn't there. When we did find her, she was in a spot that had already been searched."
While they still don't know have all the answers, Powderface said she is grateful to have at least found her niece's body.
Powderface said the band and her family was going to start their own investigation into the case, but Powderface's late sister and Poucette-Lefthand's mother said to leave it in the creator's hands.
"They just labelled her as nothing more than a teenage girl that went out and partied but she wasn't that type of person," explained Powderface. "They mislabelled her because of a few incidents. That kind of hit hard for my family, going through that trauma and seeing this movie - the reality of it didn't pop out of the screen for me - the RCMP didn't do anything for us, we had to do our own investigating."
According to the final report from the National Inquiry into MMIWG that was released in 2019, there are 231 'Calls for Justice' that must be taken by government and Canadians to end the genocide against Indigenous women and girls. Some of these include developing and implementing a National Action Plan to address violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people, which was released in June earlier this year, and calls for equal representation in governance.
"Abducted" has received several award nods, including a nomination for Best Picture, Outstanding Performance by an Actor/Actress in a Lead Role for Oulette, Pooky G and Olivia Kate Iatridis, and Outstanding Director for Daniel Foreman and Steven McMichael at the Red Nation Film Festival.
"There is an awesome Indigenous acting core in Canada," McMichael added. "We take pride in the fact that we used an all-Alberta cast. It's important to keep it local."
The Hamilton Film Festival in Ontario was next to screen "Abducted" on Nov. 10, where 100 per cent of the ticket sales were donated to a local Indigenous organization.