Film

Short films celebrate language diversity in Nova Scotia

5 Nova Scotians tell their stories in French, Scottish Gaelic, Mi’kmaw, Farsi, ASL

Jinos Akhtarkhavari loves her culture’s language, and its cinema. This year she had the chance to bring these passions together.

“I have around 20 favourite filmmakers from Iran. I adore Iranian movies,” she says.

Akhtarkhavari is an Iranian-born amateur filmmaker and native Farsi speaker. She hopes to share her love of film and what she calls the “poetic nature” of Farsi with her audience in her new short film, The Party.

Akhtarkhavari’s film will be screened, along with four other shorts, this Thursday at the Halifax Central Library.

The event was organized by Languages of Nova Scotia, an initiative started by the Atlantic Filmmakers Cooperative with the goal of celebrating linguistic diversity within the province.

Program co-ordinator Iain MacLeod says the project is about making filmmaking more accessible for all Nova Scotians, regardless of their language.

“I think every person and every group of people should have the ability to tell its own stories to the rest of the world,” he says. “If you’re having to tell your story in another language, I think something does go missing a bit.”

The languages featured in the screening are French, Scottish Gaelic, Mi’kmaw, Farsi and American Sign Language. MacLeod says they only had the resources for five films, but they wanted to represent as many of Nova Scotia’s language communities as possible.

“We’re by no means suggesting that these are the only five languages, other than English, that are used in the province or that they’re more important,” he says. “We hope that out of this program, not only are people encouraged to make films in these five languages, but in all languages in Nova Scotia.”

Telling a story in the filmmaker’s native language is something that’s also important to Akhtarkhavari. For her, it gives people the chance to see the world from a different perspective.

“Storytelling is something from the inner experience of you. It’s very precious when you can share experiences in languages, movies and art,” she says.

Angus MacLeod, a Scottish Gaelic instructor and actor in Jenny MacKenzie’s Gaelic-language film, A Journey for Agnes, says the representation of Scottish Gaelic on screen is crucial.

“If Gaelic is going to survive it has to have a presence and this, along with music, is a very good start,” says Angus MacLeod.

Cultural themes

The Languages of Nova Scotia project was funded by the Canada Council New Chapter program. AFCOOP began accepting applications for the project last spring. The five filmmakers selected were given grants and underwent training from a team of mentors, who helped them to write, produce and direct their films.

Applicants were encouraged to incorporate language and cultural themes into their work. In A Journey for Agnes, the plot revolves around the passing-down of Scottish Gaelic, from one generation to another.

Akhtarkhavari’s film is inspired by her psychology background and interest in how children see the world. In it, a young boy tries to invite his relatives in Iran to his party, but he is too young to understand the complicated visa issues that prevent them from visiting.

The subtitled screenings will be held in Paul O’Regan Hall at the Halifax Central Library, Thursday at 7 p.m. A short question and answer period with the filmmakers will follow.