Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy

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Follow filmmaker Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers as she creates an intimate portrait of her community and the impacts of the substance use and overdose epidemic. Witness the change brought by community members with substance-use disorder, first responders and medical professionals as they strive for harm reduction in the Kainai First Nation.

A portrait of a community facing radical change, Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy is a film that brings humanity and compassion to the substance-use crisis and drug-poisoning epidemic on the Kainai First Nation in southern Alberta. Contextualized in the historical and lived trauma of settler colonialism, the film draws a connecting line between the impacts of colonialism on Blackfoot land and people and the ongoing substance-use crisis. People with a substance-use disorder, both in active use and in recovery, come together with frontline workers to issue an urgent call to action: change is a matter of life or death for many people.


Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers (b. 1986) is a writer, director, producer and actor. She is a member of the Kainai First Nation (Blood Tribe, Blackfoot Confederacy) as well as Sámi from Norway. She was named the 2018 Sundance Film Institute’s Merata Mita Film Fellow and is an alumnus of the Berlinale Talent Lab and the Hot Docs Accelerator Lab. Her short documentary Bihttoš was selected as one of TIFF’s Top Ten Canadian shorts and also won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary Short at the Seattle International Film Festival. She acted in and co-wrote (with Kathleen Hepburn) the narrative feature The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open, which premiered at the Berlinale in 2019 and received the Toronto Film Critics Association and Vancouver Film Critics Circle awards for best Canadian film. It was also nominated for six Canadian Screen Awards, and Tailfeathers and Hepburn won the CSAs for best direction and best original screenplay. The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open was picked up for distribution by Ava DuVernay’s company, ARRAY, and is available to stream on Netflix in the United States.


2019 The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open

2017 Cəsnaʔəm, the City Before the City
2014 Bihttoš (Short) 
2012 A Red Girl's Reasoning (Short)
2011 Bloodland (Short)

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