Inspiring Women: Elle-Maija Tailfeathers

We were delighted to get the opportunity to speak to Elle-Maija Tailfeathers who is one fascinating and inspiring lady. Not only can she be found acting in Shudder’s recent zombie movie with a twist, ‘Blood Quantum’, she is also working on a number of other projects including writing, directing, and producing – to name a few.

Blood Quantum is out now on SHUDDER – how did the project come about for you and what drew you to the role?

I have been a fan of Jeff Barnaby for quite awhile – he is a very important member of the indigenous film community, has created some critical work in terms of pushing the medium forward and experimenting with being brave in storytelling. I thought that Rhymes for Young Ghouls was a profound work.

I got a call from my agent asking whether I wanted to audition so I read the script and thought it was an very exciting project – I knew he had been working on it for a very long time and so I was very excited to read the script. As an indigenous filmmaker and actor (sometimes) – I was really drawn to the idea of working with Jeff and watching him work.

What have you got lined up next?

So I am predominantly a filmmaker and I have been working on a feature length documentary for the past four years which is about my community’s response to the opioid crisis. I am Blackfoot from Kainai in Canada as well as Sami from Norway. My Blackfoot community was hit by the opioid crisis six years ago so I have been working on a film documenting my community’s journey and our very brave response to all of it. We are now in the rough cut stages of that documentary. So that has been my main focus during this pandemic and figuring out what’s left to do.

I also acted in Danis Goulet’s new feature Night Raiders which is now in production stages and am very excited to see it. Danis is a Cree filmmaker and she has been an integral part of the indigenous film community in terms of breaking barriers and advocating for access to resources for indigenous filmmakers. She has also been a friend and a mentor for many years so it was a great experience working with her.

Night Raiders is a dystopian drama set in the near future about a Cree woman fighting to get her daughter back!

I have also acquired the rights to a novel that I will be adapting to a screenplay and then directing as my next narrative feature. So the plan next is to get writing on that.

With us being very Nordic-centric we were really interested to know whether you ever visited Norway, being that you are part-Sami?

Yes, my father lives in his home village which is near the Russian border on the Norwegian side. I lived in Norway when I was a little girl and my first language was Sami. I go back as often as I can and the last time I visited was in January which sadly might have been the last time I can get there for quite awhile. I am still very much connected to my Sami family and culture.

My parents were both activists who met at a gathering (in Australia) for indigenous people – I have actually made a documentary about my father and my parents relationship and the Sami boarding school system. The documentary is called Rebel (Bihttoš) and you can access through the Sami film streaming platform – it is in a way my origin story, my relationship with my father, and the complexities of inter generational and the legacy of the Sami boarding school system.

The trailer for Bihttoš

What is it like living in Vancouver?

I’ve been living in New York for the last couple of years but we fled there to get back to Vancouver. It is Spring here so it is so green and lush – I feel incredibly grateful to be here right now rather than in New York City – I just really feel for the people so much right now and what they are going through there. Vancouver is world apart from New York.

What have you been watching, listening to, or reading recently? Any recommendations?

I was working on the shortlist for the Hot Docs Film Festival and have just finished watching 40 short international films so I have been inspired by the short film genre. So I have been delving into their programme.

I have been enjoying a book during the pandemic which is called ‘Empire of the Wild’ by Cherie Dimaline. The book is a drama that is a story about the Rogarou (which is a like a werewolf) that also taps into the horror genre so any fans of the horror it was such a thrilling read and another indigenous creative working within the horror genre.

Finally, what is your tip of the day?

Get outside and enjoy nature at a safe distance from others.

You can find out more on Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers future projects by following her website here


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