Profile of Odessa Shuquaya: Director of “Cedar Tree Of Life”

This year marks the 19th annual Imaginative festival held in Toronto on Oct 17 – 24th.

We are proud to have been able to provide support to a number of films and would like to highlight some of the incredible talent showcasing at this years festival. We had the opportunity to speak with Odessa Shuquaya, director of the award winning short “Cedar Tree Of Life.” Here is what she had to say about her project.

Tell us about your project?

This project began as my own investigation into cedar bark weaving and indigenous plants with three women that I had gotten to know in the arts community here in on unceded Coast Salish territory over the years. I previously filmed each of them doing more process focused activities and the footage was more informational, however, what became apparent to me was how deep their relationship was to this remarkable tree and I wanted to learn more. The National Screen Institute’s IndigiDocs program of which Creative BC is a funding partner, (you can change this line if I don’t have the correct language), application deadline was coming up and I just knew that it would be a perfect fit for the film I wanted to make.

What did you want people to take away from this film?

I want people to have an understanding of the sacredness and importance of this tree to the Salish people and how we all need to take responsibility for the care and preservation of our forests.

Were there any challenges you had to overcome while creating this project?

There weren’t any huge challenges to overcome outside of regular making-a-film-challenges, but one day, our drone operator, Sean Sullivan and I went to the Sunshine coast to film and a slender bank of fog had rolled in only and exactly the spot where we wanted to film. It was brilliantly sunny everywhere else, of course! We went into the forest to film anyway and I think the fog did add something beautiful and mysterious to a few of the shots that we used in the film. We ended up wrapping early and going out on another sunny day to get the shots I wanted. In the end I was grateful for the fog not only to for its visual effect in the photography that day but if forced us to find another forest location and it was absolutely perfect. The opening shot is that location.

How did the support from Creative BC help you create this film?

The support from Creative BC was so very valuable to our team. It enabled us to get all of the images we wanted and it has supported the life of the film at the end of production into its festival run.

What other BC creators inspire you? How so?

I’m very inspired by Marie Clements. Her vision is strong and she is able to bring it forth in so many different mediums. I love how through her art, she is lifting up our community with theatre, film, and even opera. I have had the honour to work with her and I’ll always appreciate her mentorship.