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Mekko Wins at imagineNATIVE

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(October 19, 2015 – Toronto, ON) The imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival wrapped its 2015 run on Saturday night by presenting awards in 17 categories to Canadian and International Indigenous artists in film, video, radio and new media works at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Hosted by Candy Palmater, the presenters included Alanis Obomsawin, Mrs Universe 2015 Ashley Callingbull-Burnham, Kent Monkman, and Chris Eyre. The imagineNATIVE Award Show provided over $40,000 in cash and in-kind prizes to these deserving winners as chosen by the imagineNATIVE Sun and Moon Juries.

The American film, Mekko, took the Best Feature award. Mekko is the name of a Muscogee ex-con living on the streets of Tulsa becomes embroiled in a fateful conflict with a local thug, in director Sterlin Harjo’s intriguing fusion of gritty realism and Indigenous legend. It is Sterlin Harjo`s third feature, continuing the intimate portrayal of contemporary indigenous life begun in his previous films Four Sheets to the Wind and Barking Water, is a new entry in the canon of Indigenous New Wave cinema.

Long-time Hollywood stunt performer Rod Rondeaux plays Mekko, a Muscogee man recently released from prison after serving nineteen years for murder. Shunned by his family, Mekko winds up in Tulsa’s homeless community, reuniting with an old friend, Bunnie (Wotko Long), and finding a new one in waitress Tafv (Sarah Podemski). But Mekko runs afoul of Bill (Zahn McClarnon), a terrifying thug who delivers a savage attack on Mekko and Bunnie while they sleep. Remembering a story his grandmother told him, Mekko becomes convinced that Bill is an estekini &emdah; a witch — and that, in order to bring light back into the community, he must destroy the darkness.

Following is a complete list of winners announced on Saturday night:

BEST CANADIAN SHORT DRAMA:
Clouds of Autumn – Director, Trevor Mack
Presented by imagineNATIVE – $1000 cash award

BEST SHORT DRAMA
Stoerre Vaerie (Northern Great Mountain) – Director/Producer: Amanda Kernell
Presented by Super Channel – $1000 cash award

BEST SHORT DOCUMENTARY
Nowhere Land – Director, Bonnie Ammaq
Presented by TVO – $1000 cash award

BEST AUDIO WORK
Reach for the Stars – Producer, Crystal Favel
Presented by imagineNATIVE – $1000 cash award

BEST DIGITAL MEDIA
Sky Pets – Artist, Shandiin Woodward
Presented by NBC Universal – $1000 cash award

THE JANE GLASSCO AWARD FOR EMERGING TALENT
The Routes – Director, James McDougall
Presented by CJ Foundation – $2,000 cash award

CYNTHIA LICKERS-SAGE AWARD FOR EMERGING TALENT
Le Dep – Director, Sonia Boileau
Presented by VTape – $1000 cash award

HONOURABLE MENTION
Dancing the Space Between – Director: Lacy J. Morin-Desjarlai
and Producers: Trudy Stewart and Janine Windolph

The festival also awarded a special Honourable Mention this year for the short film Dancing the Space Inbetween to recognize the tragic death of director Lacy J. Morin-Desjarlais. She was a committed young artist who died last February in a car accident that also took the life of her collaborator on the film, Regina artist Michele Sereda. The tragedy also claimed the life of well-known Calgary theatre artist Michael Green and Blackfoot elder Narcisse Blood. Morin-Desjarlais was dedicated to her art, which bridged traditional culture and contemporary practice, as seen in this beautiful film, an elegy to the children who died attending the Regina Indian Industrial School.

BEST INDIGENOUS LANGUAGE PRODUCTION AWARD
Bulunu Milkarri – Director, Sylvia Nulpinditj
Presented by Indigenous Media Initiatives – $1000 cash award

THE ELLEN MONAGUE AWARD FOR BEST YOUTH WORK
Lo Que Quiero Decirte – Director, Raquiel Palomino Ochoa
Presented by RBC – $1000 cash award

BEST DRAMATIC FEATURE
Mekko – Director, Sterlin Harjo
Presented by BellMedia – $2,000 cash award

THE ALANIS OBOMSAWIN BEST DOCUMENTARY AWARD
The Price of Peace – Director, Kim Webby and Producer, Christina Milligan
Presented by imagineNATIVE – $2,000 cash award

BEST MUSIC VIDEO
Nitahkôtân (I Have Arrived) – Director, Moe Clark
Presented by Slight Music – $500 cash award to musician and $500 to Indigenous creative

BEST EXPERIMENTAL
Tai Whetuki – House of Death – Director, Lisa Reihanna
Presented by imagineNATIVE – $1000 cash award

It had been previously announced that Tantoo Cardinal would be the recipient of the August Schellenberg Award. The award is presented by ACTRA Performers’ Rights Society & ACTRA National and generous individual donors – $1500 cash award.