Cinematheque Theatre Features Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy

By: Kieran Redmond

Cinematheque theatre in Winnipeg’s Exchange District played Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers’ film Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy from Nov. 19 to Nov. 30.

The documentary features Kainai Nation, south of Calgary, Alberta. The area is struggling with an influx of overdoses of fentanyl. 

Cinematheque is located two blocks away from Red River College Polytechnic’s Exchange District campus.

Laney Penner, a student in the Administrative Assisting Certificate Program, said RRC Polytech could invest in screenings for students in the future. 

“I feel like it would be a good idea for the college to request screenings for students,” she said. “It’s important to focus on delivering a message, because then they’ll focus on what’s important.”

Cinematheque has partnered with other educational institutions to provide screenings to students for Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy. 

The federal government said deaths related to opioids have risen 88 per cent since before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Kainai Nation invested in safe injection sites to accommodate those who rely on opioids.

In Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy, Dr. Esther Tailfeathers said this is not an effort to enable addiction but to save lives by providing necessary safety precautions such as clean needles and shelter. 

Elio Ugrin passes Cinematheque theatre in Winnipeg’s Exchange District./KIERAN REDMOND

Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative government has not adopted safe injection sites. As a result, The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority cannot run them and instead said they are committed to harm reduction through needle exchange programs, outreach, and education. 

“The people who do the programming here have a lot of care,” said Kristina Ansari, a staff member at Cinematheque. 

Ansari said Cinematheque is raising awareness to issues in and around our city through the films they choose to feature. Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy is no exception.

“This is something that is going on across Canada and here in Winnipeg,” said Ansari. “I think when someone knows more about the topic, it causes people to be more understanding.” 

Ansari said Cinematheque is interested in sharing Indigenous perspectives so that others may better understand the difficult circumstances facing many Indigenous communities. 

“We are here for the community,” she said. “The films chosen have thought behind it. They’re not just chosen for profit like you might see at other places.” 

Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy is a story of the tragic circumstances that lead to addiction in communities like Kainai Nation. 

The documentary details specific plans, such as safe-injection sites, that provide context about the opioid epidemic and its symptoms of poverty and addiction.