Canada's first Indigenous zombie film garnering international attention

A film about a zombie apocalypse on a fly-in First Nation reserve is garnering international attention. 

The short film “REZilience” is currently playing at festival in four different countries and will be screening in Hollywood this November at the  LA Skins Fest and the American Indian Institute Film Festival.

“We’re touching on a whole slew of issues affecting First Nations, Inuit, and Metis people across this country through the lens of the zombie genre,” said Jayson Stewart, a high school teacher from Espanola, Ont. who wrote and directed the film.

“Four characters have to work together and use their sense of identity to survive,” he said, adding the film touches on everything from residential schools to the sixties’ scoop.

Zombies and Indigenous culture

There are many similarities that can be drawn between zombie flicks and current issues facing Indigenous communities, Stewart said.

“Zombies are symbolic of how society is just moving along and steam-rolling over Indigenous culture. It takes a select few to stand up and say. ‘no more’.”

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While Stewart isn’t Indigenous, he says many of his family members are Cree, and a majority of the students he teaches at Espanola High School in northern Ontario are Anishnabek.

The majority of the zombies in the film are members of nearby Sagamok First Nation, where most of the footage was shot this summer.

“It’s important to have partnerships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, especially when you can use art to pass along those messages,” he said.

Stewart said if he can get the financial backing, he hopes to film a full-length feature next summer.

The film REZilience features members of Sagamok First Nation in northern Ontario. (Provided)

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