FEATURE | CANADA | 97 MINUTES | American Sign Language, English, Other
In the year 2045, amidst environmental devastation, Ishkode and her unlikely companion Niife join forces on what is left of the land to save themselves by protecting each other.
One of the most compelling and versatile filmmakers working in Canada today, Madison Thomas was named one of Playback Magazine’s “Five Filmmakers to Watch” in 2019. A storyteller of mixed ancestry (Ojibwe/Saulteux & Russian/Ukrainian settler), Thomas is based out of Winnipeg, Manitoba in Treaty 1 territory. She has a rapidly growing number of credits as a writer, director and editor across several genres, formats and platforms. Her nuanced and unique work has played festivals and won awards worldwide.
Thomas’s artistic voice first emerged from within Winnipeg’s independent film scene, with her short narrative and documentary work quickly garnering her national attention. She was selected as a finalist in the 2014 CBC Short Film Face-off with her short drama “Out of Reach.”
Thomas is an alumni of Prague Film School, the 2016 Women in the Director’s Chair Program and the 2019 Canadian Academy Program for Female Directors. She is a member of the Director’s Guild of Canada.
Thomas was a key director, editor, and researcher for the award-winning APTN/CBC factual series Taken, which shared the stories of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada for four seasons. Thomas and the Taken research team were honoured with a Canadian Screen Award nomination for their work on the series.
In addition to her vast short film filmography, Thomas has led two Telefilm-supported feature films. Her first feature “Ruthless Souls” created with producer Darcy Waite, was part of the inaugural “Talent to Watch” program in 2018. Ruthless Souls premiered at the 20th Imaginative Film Festival, was selected for the 2020 Mill Valley Film Festival, and was chosen to be part of the “Perspective Canada” program at the 2019 Berlinale Film Festival. The film also played the 2020 Gimli Film Festival and Thomas won that year’s “Best Manitoba Director Award.”
Thomas went to camera with her second feature film, post-apocalyptic drama “Finality of Dusk” in the spring of 2021. She co-wrote the film with Deaf filmmaker Katarina Ziervogel with Eagle Vision producing.
Recent TV credits include writing and directing on season 4 of the CBC/CW hit legal drama “Burden of Truth”, writing and voice-directing for the TVO animated pre-school series “Wolf Joe”, directing on season 2 of CBC/IMDBTV/Netflix comedy “Pretty Hard Cases” as well as the hit new CBC/Paramount + series “Skymed.” Thomas’ feature documentary on Buffy Sainte-Marie premiered on the opening night of TIFF 2022, and garnered Thomas a recognition for Best Feature from an Emerging BIPOC Filmmaker in the Amplify Voices Awards. Thomas also won the Directors Guild of Canada’s Allan King Award for Excellence in Documentary. The film premiered on television in Canada on Crave, and in the States on PBS’s American Masters. The film won the 2023 International Emmy for Best Arts Program. Among the other recent and upcoming festivals include DOCNYC, Calgary International Film Festival, and Whistler Film Festival.
Thomas is also a committed youth mentor. She’s taught filmmaking and leadership skills to youth with various organizations and programs both in Winnipeg and internationally since 2013. In 2016 Thomas gave a TedX talk called “Arts in the Hood” on her journey as an artist and the importance of art programming for inner-city and low-income youth.
Kyle Irving, Lisa Meeches, Rebecca Gibson, Darcy Waite
Madison Thomas, Katarina Ziervogel
Marika Sila, Cherrel Holder, Chris Dodd
To me, nature and science fiction have always gone hand in hand and been fundamentally linked. As a young person, my family would spend summers hunting, camping and enjoying the wilderness around Manitoba. In our clunky little RV that we drove around the province we had a built-in TV with a VCR slot. When I exhausted myself swimming or running around outside, I would watch Star Trek reruns my dad had taped or the same Andromeda episodes over and over. I was obsessed with the idea of far-off worlds in the cosmos and the futuristic technology they got to use. During the rest of the year, my world was quite small. I was limited to the few blocks of the North End of Winnipeg where I was allowed to run around. So, movies about aliens, and the wide-open prairie skies in the summers are two things that helped me imagine a bigger world for myself as I grew up.
The world of Finality of Dusk is very much a cautionary world. Set in the near future, just over fifty years from now, in the aftermath of pollution having grown out of control worldwide. The result of humanity’s neglect and lack of communication. A situation we could easily find ourselves in if we don’t care for the environment and each other the way we should. Instead of focusing on the mass collapse of society in major urban centres like many sci-fi and post-apocalyptic stories do, Finality of Dusk instead puts the last few survivors who remain under the microscope. Society is long lost. For those who are left, all there is now is making it through the day. With even small cities having become unliveable, the film instead focuses on a remote Indigenous First Nation in western Manitoba and the lands that surround it.
At the centre of our film is Ishkode, a tough young Ojibwe woman whose knowledge of her homeland has allowed her to survive this toxic new world. To me it was especially important to put an Indigenous woman at the head of the story. While I loved sci-fi’s and post-apocalyptic films and shows growing up, if there were Indigenous people in them, they were the naive alien race painted blue or reduced to stereotypes. In Finality of Dusk, Indigenous knowledge and world views could have been helped save humanity. But greed and ego from world powers and businesses eventually reached a point of no return. Through Ishkode’s care for the dying world around her and visual cues throughout Nookai-Noodin (Gentle Wind) First Nation, it’s clear that Indigenous people were the earth’s last defenders and heroes. Indigenous women have always been the heroes of my life and of many communities across Canada. It’s time they were the heroes of more of the stories we show on screen.
Outside of the Indigenous characters, Finality of Dusk also features characters from two other communities that have always had to survive in a society that shows little care for them. Niife, a Nigerian born climate refugee and Odin a Deaf man who has been victimized and isolated for much of his life. For those used to living in a hostile world, surviving despite the odds is all they have ever known and so naturally they are the last ones standing.
Ishkode and Niife’s interactions are largely non-verbal due to the nature of the masks they must wear, as well as the fact that they speak different languages. Without the luxuries many of us rely for communication, speech, tone and intonation, what does communication look like? Can connections still be formed? As Ishkode and Niife grow closer while on the run, I believe Finality of Dusk will showcase that despite all our differences we are all human, and that even when all hope seems lost and our backs are against the wall, together we can communicate and we can survive another day.
March 1st – March 8th
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