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Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy puts humanity and compassion first in its engagement with the substance-use crisis and drug-poisoning epidemic on the Kainai First Nation in southern Alberta. Filmmaker Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers (The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open) invites viewers to witness the collective work of her community as it faces radical transformation. Surrounded by tall prairie grass gently swaying in the wind, Dr. Esther Tailfeathers, a family doctor, community harm-reduction advocate, and Elle-Máijá’s mother, stands strong. She embraces the Blackfoot teaching of Kímmapiiyipitssini: “Kímmapiiyipitssini means compassion...” she says. “In our way of believing, if you help people out then you are blessed to continue to do that, and so our People are supposed to give what they have or what they can to help.”


Set among the flowing foothills and vast skies of southern Alberta, Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy draws a connecting line between the impacts of colonialism on Blackfoot land and people, and the ongoing substance-use crisis. With extraordinary care and consideration, Tailfeathers masterfully weaves together multiple stories of hope and resilience. First responders, medical professionals and community members whose lives have been affected by addiction and recovery offer intimate and urgent perspectives while implementing harm reduction in order to save lives. By questioning abstinence-only treatment, and showing the lives that have been saved through harm reduction models, the film asks the audience to take part in and commit to the Kainai First Nation’s methods of urgent change.


A must-see for all citizens (but policy makers and health professionals may want to take special note), Kímmapiiyipitssini charts a road map towards healing. Against the backdrop of Vancouver’s own ongoing drug-poisoning epidemic, Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy is perhaps one of the most urgent and critical films of this year.


Save the date! A live streamed Q&A with director Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers and special guests will take place on May 12th at 7:00pm. Register here: https://buff.ly/3aPS8fS


This film will have a special DOXA Drive-In screening at the PNE Amphitheatre on May 14th at 9:00pm. For more information about DOXA Drive-In, click here. To purchase tickets for the Drive-In, click here.

  • Year
    2021
  • Runtime
    125 minutes
  • Country
    Canada
  • Director
    Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers
  • Producer
    Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, David Christensen, Lori Lozinski
  • Executive Producer
    David Christensen
  • Editor
    Hans Olson
  • Animator
    Aparna Kapur