by Teresa Dovalpage
by Teresa Dovalpage
Old wisdom travels from Winnipeg to New Mexico
In Winnipeg, Manitoba, Cambridge architectural scholar Frank Albo is studying the Province’s classically designed legislative building and soon recognizes it as an homage to the legendary King Solomon’s Temple. Upon meeting Albo, Anishnabe Elder Dave Courchene begins to see a connection between the building and the spiritual teachings of his people and ancestors. Albo and Courchene form a bond that may help release valuable information to a new generation… and the entire world.
This is the main theme of Manitou API-Where the Sun Rises, the documentary at the center of the gala Native American screening event on September 23rd and 24th at the Taos Community Auditorium, and that may be screened in Albuquerque soon.
Last September Dave Courchene also gave a talk to UNM students and faculty, where Miriam Foronda, the Computer Technology Chair and a long time admirer of the Anishnabe Elder, introduced him with a Native American song, an invocation to the grisly bear “because it represents healing and courage in the heart,” she explained.
Teresa Dovalpage interviews the directors and producers of the documentary, Cindy Pickard, and her son, Andy Pickard.
Teresa Dovalpage: This is a film about connections and shared history. In that sense, what message does it bring to a multicultural, multilingual state like New Mexico?
Cindy Pickard: Just from my personal point of view, it seems to me that New Mexico is a unique and magical place with its multiple cultures and languages… I love it! It’s beautiful, and coming from Texas where I lived in an all white environment—one culture, one language, one religion part of the state—I feel super privileged now to be able to live in a mixed community. I have learned so much just in the year that I’ve been here. (I live in Los Hueros, near Ocate, New Mexico.) So, from my point of view, New Mexico multicultural heritage just confirms the message of Manitou API-Where the Sun Rises—that we can all live together, learn from each other, appreciate and respect each other without trying to change one another or impose our views. And in this way, we all become much richer, happier, compassionate etc… Here in Mora County with its agricultural history, it seems to me that a part of the bond between people is the land, nature and the animals we all care for… confirming something Dave Courchene once said to me that “like it or not, we are all going back to the land.”
Andy Pickard: For me, the film says that the past is the present. We see that through these markers and buildings that seem to be from the history books, but are really living around us. And so in New Mexico, I see this rich Pueblo tradition mixed with Spanish colonialism. The two forces are at once separate and intertwined. The history continues to write itself as people participate in each others culture. In Winnipeg, I think it was very unusual to see the Western correlate so tightly with the indigenous. I think the film shows how connected we really are and in surprising ways.
Teresa Dovalpage: And that connection is superbly shown in the documentary. Now, how did you get interested in the story of the legislative building and its connection with the Sacred Teachings of the Anishnabe people?
Cindy Pickard: I have worked with Dave Courchene for about five years; I made a commitment to help him in whatever way I could to bring forth his message. Before Manitou, we made a film called The 8th Fire, which is very much Dave’s story and vision. Working with him, I have come to trust his intuition, his dreams and visions and so when he talked to me about his idea for a new film (which turned into Manitou Api), I knew, though I didn’t really understand at the time, that there was a higher purpose in what he saw and that we should go ahead with the project. I really wasn’t at all interested in the legislative building and it took me a while after putting all the information and interviews together, to understand the really amazing connections… basically it was a giant leap of faith!
Andy Pickard: I came to this story because of the connection with Dave Courchene, from the previous film The 8th Fire and working with my mom. But the story was strangely familiar. When we started, I had been doing research for a TV special about Nostradamus. I was looking up buildings that I could film in France and Egypt, and they all shared some Masonic themes. As I began to do both projects, I wasn’t sure how things were related. Until one day, I was walking through a public park in Paris and came across an impressive bronze statue of a pride of lions. Since I am a Leo, I took note of the sculpture and the name of the artist. Later that day, I started to think about Frank’s book on the Canadian building and the chapter about the statue of Mercury. I realized, the lions were made by the very same sculptor who had designed the “Golden Boy” statue that stands on top of the legislative building. That sort of blew my mind and I realized I was in the flow of history, and history was no longer in the past, but very present and in my face. As far as the teachings are concerned, I was impressed that all the cathedrals in Europe display the four gospels in animal form, lion, bull, eagle and a man (or angel). The Seven Teachings are also in animal form and are represented in rock at the Whiteshell site. The connections still amaze me, and all it takes is to look at the story from a different angle.
Teresa Dovalpage: What reactions did you receive about the documentary from the Native American community? The mainstream?
Cindy Pickard: Manitou Api has been shown to a wide variety of audiences both in Canada and in the United States since it was released in February 2010. The reactions from the Native audiences in Canada have been an expression of tremendous appreciation for a film which brings forth to the world their beliefs and teachings in such a positive way. In Canada, Manitou Api has received several standing ovations. In Texas, it was shown to a mainly all white, rather elderly audience and the reactions were surprising (at least to me): many comments expressing appreciation for helping them understand the extraordinary wisdom of the Native People… things that they had never been taught in Texas history books. Other reactions from audiences…mostly white, middle class have been super positive—appreciation for the beauty of the film, for being allowed into an often private world and to hear The Seven Sacred Teachings brought forward in such a clear and easy- to-understand way.
Andy Pickard: After the screening in Canada, I talked with the drummers who were in the film. Drumming for them goes hand in hand with ceremony, and I feel like they saw their art represented in a respectful way through the film. I was humbly grateful that they participated in the movie. Mainstream reaction has been good too. Those who see the whole film at a screening feel like they have entered into a sacred place and appreciate the beauty and positive message.
Teresa Dovalpage: That makes it even more powerful, the fact that an inspiring message is delivered in such a gorgeous setting. And it also does a wonderful job of conveying that message weaved in with a piece of real history. What do you expect your audience to get from it?
Cindy Pickard: I think we hope to allow people to take whatever they can or want… for the people that we’re working with in Beverly Hills, it’s mainly appreciation for the beauty of the film, the music and a captivating story… But truthfully, I think for all of including Dave our greatest hope is that the people who see Manitou Api would really take the teachings to heart and begin to live them…and in that way, we might make a real change in this chaotic and violent world.
Andy Pickard: I can’t really have any expectations of an audience. You never know what kind of a mood people are in when they are about to watch a film. Most are looking forward to be entertained, so I made this as entertaining as possible. Once they get deeper into the film, I would hope that people see that their world, the world they live in now, has been created in spirit. Their ancestors recognized the mystery of spirit, and the architects of the building, and those who laid the rocks, were honoring that force of nature. And so, I hope that this film invigorates people to reclaim that spirit of building and artistry that expresses their relationship to nature and spirit.
Teresa Dovalpage: Now that Governor Bill Richardson and Robert Redford have launched the project Milagro de Los Luceros there are lots of opportunities for Hispanic and Native American filmmakers here. Have you considered filming in New Mexico?
Cindy Pickard: We would love to whenever an opportunity is presented.
Andy Pickard: I’ve been very interested in getting involved with film in New Mexico, and would like to see a boom in Native filmmaking. With influx of high budget films and professional talent immigrating to the state, it seems like a golden opportunity for native filmmakers to blossom. I’d like to be a part of that. I don’t have any specific plans, but I have visited several times, looking for the right opportunity.
Teresa Dovalpage: What is your next film project?
Cindy Pickard: We never know about our next project until one pops up and seems right. At the moment, we are focusing on bringing the teachings out on an international level through Seven Teachings t-shirts, posters and jewelry. We will very likely be signing a contract within the next month with a film distribution company that will distribute Manitou Api to an international audience. There always seems to be another film project though, waiting around the corner.
Andy Pickard: I actually started writing a screenplay that I would like to film, and I have a couple of TV show ideas that I am trying to sell.
After the second film screening and gala, on September the 24th, Michael A. Knight, Executive Director of The Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico, wrote to the filmmakers:
“Dear Cindy and Andy, I want to thank you both, all of your crew and others who made the production of the film possible. The whole evening was a true blessing and the film was excellent. I really don’t have words to express how deeply I was touched and inspired by the timely and important message of the film……. For me, it confirmed the urgency of the age and brought many thoughts and insights, which have been incubating within me for the last six years, into focus. The film, with the Seven Teachings, conveys an essential message to all mankind. I trust it will find circulation all over the planet. The time is now.”
It is also poignant that a man who is the Director of one of the oldest and most prestigious artist in residence programs in the USA that specializes in helping writers, had a loss for words to express his feelings about the screening event. Now that is a significant statement about the power of the film and the alchemical magic that he experienced with all the participants, audience and the screening on Friday night!
For more information about the Cindy and Andy Pickard’s films, DVD’s, merchandise and the entire event, log onto www.the8thfire.org. To book a screening event or to connect with the filmmakers, call Public Relations Director, Julia Pyatt at 575 -779-4778 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about the work of Andy Pickard, log onto www.imagicapictures.com. For information about Dave Courchene go to www.theturtlelodge.com and for Frank Albo go to www.frankalbo.com