“êmîcêtôsêt: Many Bloodlines” is quite a special queer short film. Winner of HotDocs 2020 Best Canadian Short Documentary, this queer short film is simply stunning. This self produced and self written story follows Stefani and Theola on their journey through pregnancy and into parenthood. It’s real and authentic, especially because Theola fully embraces and wants to include her Cree heritage. Together they candidly talk about themselves whilst finding their way through IVF as a lesbian couple. Let’s discuss more about what makes “êmîcêtôsêt: Many Bloodlines” so beautiful.
Synopsis of “êmîcêtôsêt: Many Bloodlines”
Listening to a fetal heartbeat, the first image is of Theola and Stefani facing each other with Theola’s hands on Stefanis pregnant belly. In a voiceover, Theola talks about her intial concerns being Native and how that affected their relationship. Cut in during this introduction is the stunning visual of Theola dancing in full Cree ensemble. Next, Theola records a selfie video talking about their plan for IVF with Stefani as the host. Return backing to the initial scene in their kitchen and the voiceover, she mentions how she always knew that she would never be the one to carry the baby.
After a quick cut to a hospital visit with staff donning PPE gowns, Theola continues to talk about their struggles finding a sperm donor. They both wanted something with Native ancestry to ensure Theola’s unique heritage is continued alongside Stefani’s egg. The initial prospective donors did not have enough Native ancestry to avoid being left out when combining with Stefani’s European heritage. Thankfully, they found a solidly indigenous Salvadorian donor that felt right to both of them. Stefani chimes in and notes that while Theola still has concerns that pushing for an indigenous donor is “political”, it’s actually not; it’s a way to reclaim what has been taken from Indigenous tribes.
While Stefani braids Theola’s hair in preparation for a dance performance, Theola continues her voiceover talking about how she included her spiritual heritage into the entire process: from the insemination to the actual delivery. Back to another selfie video at the doctor’s office, they explain the “marsupial” status of Stefani, chuckling at the reference. Back at a gym where they are preparing for a festival, Stefani provides a voiceover from her viewpoint. She recounts how it doesn’t bother her that her baby isn’t fully part of her. Cutting to an interview with Stefani, she talks about how most of her family do not know that she is even pregnant. They just don’t talk, so it’s better for her to focus on her relationship with Theola.
In the hallway at the school, Theola continues to put on her dance ensemble. While we watch each stunningly beaded and strung piece, Theola talks about how her family is Catholic and that how she taught herself how to dance traditional. Her family did not fully embrace her drive to return to their heritage, however she notes that at some point she had to decided for herself – she chose to embrace her Indigenous roots through traditional dance. Meanwhile, we get to watch a bit of Theola dancing – it’s visually beautiful!
Skipping ahead to the delivery room, things become very clinical. Stefani notes the initial plan was for a home birth, however reasons forced it to change. However their birthing coach was very open to including some traditional birthing aspects such as smudging, keeping the placenta, and more. Suddenly in a blackout, we hear baby cries! While cradling their newborn to Stefani’s bare chest, Theola welcomes their daughter, Kîwêtin Wilder Anôskan Mahina to the world – in Cree. By cutting back and forth between this tender moment in the birthing center and with Theola dancing traditionally, it’s a beautiful end – and a new beginning for them all.
I truly have nothing negative to say about “êmîcêtôsêt: Many Bloodlines”- which is a shock for I usually try to play devil’s advocate and find something that could be improved!
Cinematographically, this queer short is well balanced with a smoothness between using candid selfie video clips and camera footage. Just like how Theola and Stefani weave together their two heritages, they’ve edited this short in a way that is exciting but progresses the story along naturally. Utilising voiceover commentary rather effectively, they balance the visuals on screen with how they narrate their personal story. Interspersed are clips of hospital visits, interviews, and perhaps my favourite part, footage of Theola dancing at a festival in full Cree ensemble. It adds a unique cultural element that really makes “êmîcêtôsêt: Many Bloodlines” stand out. (I’ve long had a fascination with First Nation traditions and ceremonial dance outfits. They’re simply stunning!)
Even thought their heartfelt discussions bounce around a bit between different topics, it’s in a smooth way that’s not even noticeable and follows a natural timeline. (Other than the initial visual where it’s obvious that Stefani is quite pregnant!) One moment Stefani is talking about her concerns of raising a child as an interracial queer couple, the next Theola is talking about the IVF process and finding an adequate donor. It all just pieces together beautifully, and is well shot. While we do watch a few others during some scenes, such as in the delivery room itself, the focus is always on either Theola 0r Stefani – or both of them together. “êmîcêtôsêt: Many Bloodlines” truly is a heartfelt queer short documentary.
In “êmîcêtôsêt: Many Bloodlines”, we are welcomed into the personal journey of Stefani and Theola, as they sift though the hurdles of pregnancy and childbirth. Woven together with candid footage and interviews, this short documentary is heartfelt and is treated with the same love and affection I’m sure they will give to their baby. Go watch it today – it’s that good!
Queer Relevance of “êmîcêtôsêt: Many Bloodlines”
There’s actually quite a handful of queer relevant aspects in this queer short film, “êmîcêtôsêt: Many Bloodlines”. For one, we have an interracial relationship where one partner is of the First Nations. That strong representation within the queer niche is not common, and that alone makes this personal documentary special. Additionally, they talk about IVF and finding donors as a lesbian couple, in addition to some of the hurdles (or even lack of because it seemed to be rather easy for Stephani & Theola!)It’s great overall, pushing indigenous and queer representation that extra step forward.