Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers’ recent documentary hits close to home. Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy shares the story of a community battling addiction and the journey to healing in the Kainai First Nation in Southern Alberta.
“My mother, who was featured in the film, Dr. Esther Tailfeathers, shares with me what she witnesses at work, so I would hear from her about what she was witnessing early on in the crisis back in 2014,” says Tailfeathers, writer, director and producer. “It was devastating to see so many members of our community passing away from overdoses… and I wanted to be able to document the work that was happening for our community, but also as a means to show the world outside of our community that there’s so much strength within our community and so many people that are fighting to find solutions.”
Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy was filmed over four years and features community members active in addiction and recovery, and first responders and medical professionals who are implementing harm reduction to save lives.
“I hope people who watch the film will walk away with empathy for Indigenous people who live with substance-use disorder,” says Tailfeathers. “And I hope that people will walk away with a deeper understanding of substance-use disorder, the ways that we treat it and what harm reduction is, but also a deeper understanding of how Canada’s colonial legacy and ongoing colonial policies impact Indigenous people in very violent and harmful ways and how that history directly correlates with with addictions within our communities.”
Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy opens in select Canadian theatres throughout November and is screening at Metro Cinema on November 20 and 21. The November 20 screening is followed by a virtual Q&A with Tailfeathers. Ticket prices range between $8 and $13.