Bridges to the North
A Story 15 Years in the Making
Story by Roxann Shapwaykeesic, Images courtesy of Theymedia
Back in September, Bridges to the North premiered at the Vox Popular Media Arts Festival in Thunder Bay. The documentary was produced by Theymedia, Webequie First Nation, and Marten Falls First Nation, and directed by Gull Bay First Nation member Tony McGuire. “It was astounding to see everyone laughing in unison, and at the end, coming up with hope and being like, ‘You know what, I'm angry, but I’m full of hope.’ And that was what I wanted,” says McGuire of the premiere, where the film won a People’s Choice Award. Through McGuire’s media and consulting work in the remote communities, the footage in the documentary goes back a decade and a half. “I filmed continuously for 15 years. I was able to use that footage to describe and give a starting point for the story,” says McGuire, who filmed another year and a half while navigating the unique challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. The documentary was created to give a voice to Webequie and Marten Falls, and their desire to see year-round roads built to communities that are fly-in and winter road-access only. Other communities in the area oppose these plans. “To sum up [the film] is to sum up everyone else's voices. The doc encapsulates all those voices, but really focuses on their desires to have roads to their community, which they will decide on for their own concerns and their own sovereignty. They just wanted their voices heard,” says McGuire on the many facets and opinions on this kind of infrastructure. In November 2021 a funding announcement confirmed the film’s go-ahead. “On one of the biggest days of my life where I received funding for a film, my brother died,” McGuire says. “The night my biggest high hit was also the biggest low. It happened during lockdown and I couldn’t grieve, we couldn’t do a fire. The man who I turned to whenever I did our rituals left me. Six months into making the film, I saw how much of his voice was in the film. I finally acknowledged what he meant, what it meant to lose him, and the film was my sacred ritual.” McGuire explained the film isn’t just about the road. It’s telling the story through the lens of people in Webequie and Marten Falls, where his brother was from. “It’s a documentary about people.” After watching the film, McGuire says many viewers changed their stance on building roads. “Afterwards, people were like, ‘What can I do to help?’” McGuire says. “It was going to be a hard story to tell, but we have something accurate and most importantly, Anishinaabe-told.” To learn more about the documentary and Theymedia, go to facebook.com/theymedia.