Using explosive movement and satirical humour, two indigenous performers tread the timeline of appropriation of Indigenous bodies, from cowboys to Coachella, exploring concepts of identity and colonization. Through movement, mask, and the subversion of the performance of Red Face, a history of social masks comes alive in this timely and impactful performance devised by Todd Houseman and Lady Vanessa Cardona.
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY
GRIP / GAFFER
SET EDITOR / DIT / COLOURIST
LADY VANESSA CARDONA
CHRISTINE SOKAYMOH FREDRICK
LADY VANESSA CARDONA
Everett Sokol is an indigenous film director from Edmonton, Alberta. After training as an actor, Everett made the transition to production to become a producer, writer and director. Everett is a graduate of the MacEwan University Theatre Arts program and the Red Deer College Motion Picture Arts degree program. Previous credits include, "Wilds of Canada", “The Dancer”(Rosie Award Nominee), “Falter”(Rosie Award Nominee), and “Whiteface”. Everett is also the recipient of the national William F. White Inc. Vilmos Zsigmond Scholarship, which he was awarded at the Bell Lightbox Theatre at TIFF. Recognizing the under representation of indigneous people in the film community, Everett aims to better balance the demographic of indigenous creatives in the industry.
Todd Houseman is an improviser, Nehiyo actor, Indigenous activist, author, and educator, currently based in Montreal. He is currently pursuing actor's training at the National Theatre School of Canada. In his hometown of Edmonton, Alberta Todd was a senior improviser with Rapid Fire Theatre 2009-2017. He is the co-author and co-star of the acclaimed play "Whiteface" (Mile Zero Dance & Nuit Blanche), which Edmonton Journal called "by turns funny, heartfelt, hallucinatory, and simmering with rage". Todd was co-producer on "Whiteface" the short film and a co producer/writer of "Folk Lordz" the web series. Todd’s TV credits include APTN’s "Delmer and Marta" and “Caution May Contain Nuts”. Recent theatre credits: "Indra's Web" (NTS/Monument-National), "Or the Whale" (Studio Theatre), and "Metis Mutt" (Fringe Theatre Adventures). His comic "Ayannisach" won the 2015 School Library Journal Book of the Year award, as a part of Moonshot: The Indigenous Comic Collection.
THE STAGE PLAY
STATEMENT FROM THE WRITERS
STATEMENT FROM THE WRITERS
Adapting the play from stage to screen came with it's fare share of challenges and rewards. By changing the medium to film we were able to enhance certain parts of the text or showcase a specific movement. This lead to the development of a different story than the stage play but stemming from the same thought and idea that the show represents as a whole.
Whiteface was created to tackle cultural appropriation, and more specifically the representation of indigenous bodies in film and how those images have shaped our reality today, as indigenous and non-indigenous consumers of stories. Since colonization there has always been a very strong misrepresentation of indigeneity from a non-indigenous perspective. This appropriation has ranged from making us into savage and horrid monsters to fairytale-esc naked people boarding on that of elves. When young indigenous and non-indigenous people see these narratives and portrayals of our people, they assume this to be true because at a time this was the ONLY representation of nativeness that young people were exposed to. With the wake of the reserve patrols and residential schools coming out of the 50s, indigenous people were not at the helm of their narrative in North America and so the truth of these stories was far from seen.
One of the main instigators of the mis-representation was "westerns." The western often featured Italian's painted red or severely bronzed with feathered bands around their heads designed to keep their wigs on. These stories have been told this way up until today, (Taylor Lautner - Twilight, Johnny Depp - the lone ranger) and the effects of this often leads to a non-indigenous entitlement to our stories and by extension our ways of life. There is a legacy of theft of indigenous bodies and lands in north america. The continued theft of our stories through westerns and other stories do not serve our attempts as indigneous people to reclaim our narrative in our country. By not listening to our stories they we must tell them, which is from our perspective and by indigenous people, our narrative stays locked in the ownership of the crown so to speak, or at least still without our control or consent, something we have been asking for since the beginning of colonization.
Whiteface is the other side of that coin. An intentional misrepresentation of the colonial "white" population in north america. This is one of very very few and often intentional misrepresentations of whiteness in our media and so any comparison to the experiences of those who suffer from redface is a gross misunderstanding. We wanted to offer or share the feeling of being misrepresented or appropriated to a larger audience and explain through this work, what happens when your story is highjacked and how that affects a people. We tried to draw lines between the fetishization, criminalization, and classism that have come from people misunderstanding our ways and feeling entitled to our bodies.
By transferring this play to film we are able to reach a broader audience and continue to resist the misrepresentation of our people. This was also a way to infiltrate the very same industry that was behind the most iconic appropriation of our bodies, film. I hope to pursue film more with stories of this kind as I find them both important and entertaining and look forward to the continued evolution of what indigenous film is becoming.
I came across the original stage production of "Whiteface" in 2018 when I bought tickets to the show during the Edmonton Fringe Festival. After watching the emotionally captivating and visually stunning production produced and performed by Todd Houseman and Lady Vanessa Cardona, I eagerly introduced myself to them to compliment the show. Months down the road, an opportunity to devise a film adaptation came about. The three of us and my production partner Sam Burns worked together to develop the cinematic version of the play. Sam and I rewrote and adapted their original script and cut the then 45-minute play into a 16 minute short film.
As a theatre actor, the idea of bridging to two mediums of theatre and film was always the goal and with "Whiteface" this was now possible. The idea, recreate the play while adding the cinematic techniques of filmmaking. This aimed to make a more absurd and experimental short film rather than a traditional narrative; forcing the audience to open their minds to the subtext of the short. The vague set in a black void, the characters in whiteface, and the visually striking masks helped devise an environment where abnormality is accepted; a theme well traversed in the theatre community.
By enhancing the themes of the play, we were able to discuss the subject of colonization and appropriation of indigenous culture by white society. The masks used throughout the show by the characters imitate the sexual indian, the poverty indian, and the criminal indian. Each mask sequence dives into the stereotypes that white society has forced onto indigenous society. The dark humour and witty commentary separates the mask sequences to remind the audience of the real discrimination indigenous people face. "Whiteface" is aimed to provide voices for the oppressed indigenous community through a unique and artistic visual film.