Thirza Cuthand’s experimental filmography is a firsthand look into the artist’s mind. Varying from poetic imagery that matches a stream of consciousness-type spoken word to satirical infomercials for dating services or documentaries, this retrospective being presented at the Native Spirit Film Festival is a peek into Cuthand’s experience as Cree and queer.
Cuthand first started exploring the world behind the lens of a camera as a teenager. Her earliest short being shown in this retrospective is from 1995. It comes from an innocent perspective of a budding lesbian who is legitimately curious about where the other girls who like girls are at her high school. The funny film is fueled by naive creativity that is evident of blossoming sexuality that continued to be a theme in Cuthand’s later work.
While queer sexuality, specifically two-spirit identification, is addressed in many of her films, Cuthand also looks at other facets of her existence. The short Sight from 2012 is especially relatable to those who have dealt with a mental health diagnosis and had to watch others around struggle with their own disorders. The mix of Super 8 footage overlaid with the sound of the director’s words is a devastating expedition at how madness is perceived.
Thirza Cuthand Is An Indian Within The Meaning Of The Indian Act from 2017 is the director exploring where she fits in the world that wants to question her Cree identity because of the color of her skin. This ongoing colorism that is evident in the Native communities is a tricky subject, one that Cuthand brilliantly examines by keeping her talking points personal and therefore evoking a strong empathy for her in-between position. The imagery that is matched with these stories of blood quantum and land ownership makes this eight-minute short a powerful work of Indigenous filmmaking.
The Thirza Cuthand retrospective was a part of this year’s Native Spirit Festival. It was an excellent opportunity to hear from a Cree voice about their Native and nuanced journey through sexuality, identity, mental health, and all the emotions that cannot necessarily be conveyed through a simple word but through the medium of film. The presentation of her films was part of DECOLONIAL LOVE: 2-SPIRIT AND INDIGIQUEER program on October 13.