I first met Joshua in 2015 while working on the set of I LOST MY TALK, a multimedia dance film inspired by the poem by acclaimed Mi'kmaw elder and poet Rita Joe. Learning about the origins of the poem and what it represented was eye-opening for me. It was an experience that allowed me to understand history in a way that I never could from a textbook in school, and made me aware of the real privilege we have to occupy these lands. It was also my first foray into performing arts territory, and where I became fascinated by the possibilities of creative expression through music and dance.
A couple of years later, Joshua and I reconnected. He told me about all the things he had been up to since the film, specifically that he was working on a new sound, which he called “Pow Wow Techno.” Soon after, I saw him perform live, first spinning on the decks as a DJ, and then later on, spinning on the dance floor decked out in traditional Fancy Dance regalia. The burst of colour and textures against the brick walls of the underground nightclub was a sight like nothing I’d seen before. The visual spectacle, coupled with the bass-heavy beats created an electricity that pulsed throughout the room. It was then that I knew that I was in the presence of something special.
Days later, I couldn’t stop thinking about the performance. But it wasn’t the flashiness of the regalia or the catchy techno music that was stuck in my head - it was what it represented. And while I am not Indigenous or a DJ, I can relate to the idea of existing in two worlds. As a first-generation immigrant from a country with deep-rooted colonial history, I have a distinct understanding of the need to find identity within mainstream culture. I often feel at odds with who I am and where I come from. It was a breath of fresh air to see Joshua taking that duality in his stride - his passion for producing techno music evident, while embracing his heritage and celebrating his culture in his dance. There was a sense of freedom in every step, and so I made it my mission to capture that energy on film.
While shooting the film, Joshua and I became very close. We bonded over our passion for community work, specifically with kids from marginalized groups, and the responsibility of being a good role model for them. One of the scenes in the film include Joshua giving a DJ workshop to kids from his hometown community in Longlac. There was one boy who kept lingering around Joshua, utterly fascinated by his DJ equipment. At one point, we see him curiously stare at the mixer, and then with one finger, gently spin the turntables. It was clear that in that moment, a dream had sprouted. I never thought it was possible to capture such a pure, intimate moment nor that it would be presented to me in such a literal way - but it made me realize the power and potential of what we were doing, and that we needed to continue it.
Negative depictions in the media surround Indigenous people, especially the youth. Now, more than ever, there is a desperate need for coverage of stories of resilience, strength and hope. Joshua’s story is exemplary in that he has proven through his musical career, ambitions, and simply through his existence, that it is possible to come out of a place of limited opportunity and create a successful and fulfilling life. We have partnered with We Matter, a campaign committed to Indigenous youth empowerment, hope and life promotion to create the Turning Tables Tour. The tour will see Joshua take the film, his music and workshops to several First Nations communities where he will continue spreading his positivity and encouraging youth to find healing and purpose through the arts.
Throughout this process, I have had the benefit of working with an experienced and talented team who have gently guided me along the way, yet always supported my vision. I’m grateful to the communities and collaborators who have helped this film in any way, big or small. My greatest thanks goes to Joshua, for his unwavering commitment and trust, and for choosing me to share his story and light with the world.
Chrisann Hessing, Director