The film re-imagines an ancient Ojibway story, the Seven Fires Prophecy, which both predates and predicts the tribe’s first contact with Europeans four centuries ago. Warning the Ojibway people of the newcomers who may bring with them death, the prophecy foretells the colonisation of the tribe and their land, and the consequent loss of indigenous ways of life. Yet, the prophecy also anticipates a new generation that is committed, through struggle, to recovering what was never lost. INAATE/SE/ explores how the Seven Fires Prophecy resonates now across generations in the artists’ indigenous community in the city of Sault Ste. Marie within Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
The artists’ conversations with their community recount how European colonisers displaced the Ojibway people by transforming local landscapes and waterways for industrial development, outlawing indigenous traditions, ceremonies and languages, and subjecting children to Christian indoctrination. Looming over these collectively formulated accounts – of past events, lost connections and violence inflicted by Western colonial capitalism – stands the Tower of History, a modernist observation tower and museum in Sault Ste. Marie. Here Ojibway ancestors’ belongings and remains are held against their will to serve the settler-colonial narrative of local history.
INAATE/SE/ finds release in, and builds upon, persistent undercurrents of resistance to extant colonial forces. The narrative culminates in framing the contemporary moment as the seventh fire of the ancient prophecy, which is defined by the emergence of the new generation and marks the epoch of recovery. This vision refuses the colonial historicisation of indigenous cultures as something obsolete only to be preserved in ethnographic collections and archives, and demands recognition for indigenous communities as contemporary individuals whose traditions are ever-evolving in relation to changing environmental and socio-political fabrics.
A kaleidoscopic experience blending documentary, narrative, and experimental forms, INAATE/SE/ transcends linear colonised history and roots itself in the experiences of the Ojibway people. Acknowledging the long history of the camera as a weapon that has been wielded against indigenous peoples, the artists have formulated a potent cinematic language through which to exercise self-determination and shoot back against the coloniser’s gaze. With sharp geographic specificity, and vast historical scope, the film fixes its lens between the sacred and the profane to delve into the construction of contemporary indigenous identity.
At Obsidian Coast, INAATE/SE/ is accompanied by creative contributions from a group of the artists’ long-term collaborators, including a public recruitment campaign for New Red Order (with Jackson Polys, Gaile Pranckunaite and Bayley Sweitzer); the Never Settle! magazine (with Inpatient Press); and the poem Native Videographers Shoot Back (by Allison Krebs).
Adam Khalil and Zack Khalil (Ojibway) are filmmakers and artists from Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and currently based in Brooklyn, New York. Their work subverts traditional forms of ethnography through humor, transgression, and innovative documentary practice. Their films and installations have been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, Artists Space, the Whitney, LACMA, Walker Arts Center, Sundance Film Festival, Contour Biennial, Toronto Biennial, Whitney Biennial, and more. They both graduated from the Film and Electronic Arts program at Bard College and are Sundance Creative Non Fiction Fellows, Jerome Foundation Artist Fellows, UnionDocs Collaborative Fellows and Gates Millennium Scholars.