How To Lose Everything, a CBC Arts Original created by Christa Couture and produced by Michelle St. John, will premiere on Friday, January 27, 2023 with episodes streaming free on CBC Gem. How To Lose Everything is a series of Indigenous animated short films that explore personal stories of loss with all five episodes available in English, French, and the Indigenous language of the writer. How To Lose Everything is inspired by Christa Couture’s debut memoir of the same name, out now with Douglas & McIntyre.
From instructions on how to survive tragedy, to parallels between two Scottish and Inuit communities, to a bear named Jesus, the five stories in How To Lose Everything span nations, languages, and perspectives on heartache. The Indigenous team of writers, animators, directors and composers — which includes Christa Couture, Terril Calder, Archer Pechawis, Chief Lady Bird, Tara Williamson, Meky Ottawa, Smokii Sumac, Megan Kyak-Monteith, Cris Derksen, G.R. Gritt, Melody McKiver, and Taqralik Partridge — represent Cree, Ojibwe, Anishinaabe, Ktunaxa, Inuit, Chippewa, Potawatomi, Atikamekw, and Métis nations.
This series begins with “A Field Guide”, written by Christa Couture and co-directed by Couture and bekky O’Neil. “A Field Guide” is a watercolour and in-camera animation that gives instructions on survival for the uninitiated, and companionship for those who know the terrain of heartache and loss. While “A Field Guide” is the invitation, the following four episodes are the response.
Episode two is “A Bear Named Jesus”, a stop-motion film by Terril Calder written and narrated by Archer Pechawis. At Archer’s Aunty Gladys’ funeral, he hears a tap on the window — it’s a bear named Jesus, who has come for Archer’s mom. “A Bear Named Jesus” is an allegory for religious interference, with an aching yet humorous look at estrangement and mourning for the loss of someone still living.
“Heart Like a Pow Wow” is an animated short directed by Chief Lady Bird, which explores the depths of grief from an Anishinaabe perspective of love and family, by poet and musician Tara Williamson. Viewers are called to witness Spirit as they shift to physical form while embodying the love that precedes grief and inevitably foreshadows it.
In “There Are Hierarchies of Grief”, directed and digitally animated by Meky Ottawa, Smokii Sumac reflects on the wisdom and strength of bereaved mothers, as he is faced with the grief of waking up to a changed world — but also with the comfort of the people, memories and emotions left like gifts for those left behind.
In episode five titled “Grape Soda in the Parking Lot”, directed and animated in oil pastel paintings by Megan Kyak-Monteith, Taqralik Partridge asks what if every language that had been lost to English — every word, every syllable — grew up out of the ground in flowers? Taqralik’s grandmother’s Scottish Gaelic and her father’s Inuktitut unfold in memories of her family, of pain, and of love.
How to Lose Everything elevates Indigenous storytelling and animation as never before. The series connects dots of loss, reprieve, and hope from personal experiences to our most universal: grief and, ultimately, love at its centre. It is one of many collaborations that’s part of The Creation Accelerator project between CBC/Radio-Canada and the Canada Council for the Arts.
The launch will be celebrated with How to Lose Everything: Series Screening and Q&A on Saturday, January 28, 2023 at 2pm ET, a live, virtual discussion with the Indigenous team of writers and directors. For tickets and information visit: http://sqz.co/HtLElaunch
“A Field Guide” has won Best Animated Short at American Indian Film Festival, Imagine This Women’s Film Festival, and Cinema Sisters International Film Festival in addition to official selection screenings at Folk In Film Festival. ReelAbilities Film Festival, London International Film Festival, and St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival.
Christa Couture is an award-winning performing and recording artist, filmmaker, and non-fiction writer. She is also proudly Indigenous (mixed Cree and Scandinavian), queer, disabled, and a mom. Her seventh album Safe Harbour was released on Coax Records in 2020. As a writer and storyteller, she has been published in Room, Shameless, and Augur magazines, and on cbc.ca. In 2018, her CBC article and photos about disability and pregnancy went viral. Her debut memoir How to Lose Everything is out now with Douglas & McIntyre.