Métis filmmaker Terril Calder's new animated short, "Meneath: The Hidden Island of Ethics", deserves to become a classic.
The 19-minute National Film Board production features a wide-eyed Métis toddler contemplating her place in the world and pondering if she's on her way to Hell.
One of the sculpted dolls, looking like Jesus, speaks into one of her ears about the seven deadly sins. There are stark warnings about the dangers of sloth, gluttony, lust, pride, et cetera.
A second sculpted doll, the Great Mother of the Ojibway people, Nokomis, teaches the toddler about the seven sacred teachings: love, respect, wisdom, courage, truth, honesty, and humility.
Whereas the Indigenous message is that the girl was created to dream, the Christian response is that she was created out of the original sin.
Guilt looms large in the Christian world but not in Indigenous culture. And this is reinforced by the stern voice of Jesus (Kent McQuaid) and the gentle and loving responses from Nokomis (Gail Maurice).
The emotions in the child's eyes are utterly captivating. And Nokomis's lessons—including that the baby girl matters and her journey matters—offer a compelling counterweight to Christianity's ideological need to rescue Indigenous communities from their traditions.
The language in "Meneath: The Hidden Island of Ethics" is simple enough for a child to absorb, yet so stirring that it can move an adult.
The word Meneath means "island" in Anishinaabemowin, indicating that this child lives on Turtle Island.
It's a beautiful and profound reflection on Indigenous identity and ultimately, a film about healing.