Elle-Maija Tailfeathers’ five-year journey is reaching its climax.

The producer and director of the documentary Kimmapiiyiptssini: the meaning of empathy wanted to share how your Kainai home is trying to address the opioid crisis.

“I am very proud of Kainai and very proud of all the people who are working so hard in the community to find solutions to this crisis,” said Tailfeathers.

“I am looking forward to sharing the history of our community with the rest of Canada.”

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The Meaning of Empathy: Documentary Examines the Opioid Crisis and the Community Work Going on in Blood Tribe

The documentary has already been shown at film festivals such as the Hot Docs film festival in Toronto, winning the emerging Canadian director award and picking up an audience’s choice award at the Calgary International Film Festival.

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It is now scheduled to open in theaters across the country, beginning with Vancouver’s VanCity Theater on November 5.

Tailfeathers wants to spread awareness about Blood Tribe’s approach to drug treatment.

“I don’t know if many people realize that Kainai is a national leader when it comes to responding to the opioid crisis,” Tailfeathers said.

“There have been some really incredible radical changes and I think this movie is a true testament to all the work that is going on there.”

More than 50 people are featured in the documentary, which is a portrait of the collective work of healing the impacts of substance abuse and drug intoxication deaths in the Southern Alberta First Nation.

“We see the efforts of frontline workers like paramedics,” Tailfeathers said. “Then we look at the lives of people who are living with active addiction and people who are also in recovery.

“There were many people who were generous in sharing their stories.”

Tiffany Young Pine is part of a new initiative on the reservation: the Blood Tribe Opioid Task Force.

A recovering addict, she has now been clean for 19 months and believes the film will help not only those trying to fix the problem, but also those dealing with addiction.

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“I see it every day, people struggling with their addictions and being an addict myself, it scares us too much to step up and want the help, because we are afraid of being judged,” Young Pine said.

Tailfeathers hopes that people who see the movie will follow its title and walk away with a little more empathy for others.

“Just a deeper understanding of the reality of indigenous peoples living with substance use disorder,” said Tailfeathers. “Understand how the history of colonialism … residential schools, the early sixties and Indian Law, how all of these things have impacted our people.”

The documentary will have staggered premieres in eight theaters throughout November. In Lethbridge, it will debut at Movie Mill on November 12.

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