Promote change with the new documentary ‘Circle of Eagles’
Indigenous people have always brought a fascinating perspective to the big screen, despite not having as many opportunities to do so. The stories of hope and healing that originate from Indigenous culture are always richly woven, and none more so than the new film Circle of Eagles.
Circle of Eagles is a passion project for director Merv Thomas. The film provides an in depth look into lives of Indigenous people before and after they serve prison time. It also questions the effects of prison time on the culture, and how it can inform future generations. Circle of Eagles, which has the subtitle Soaring for 50 Years, has been making the festival rounds since July 2021.
Thomas is Nehiyaw, Cree, First Nations from Pelican Lake, Saskatchewan. He lives in the territory of the Coast Salish people, in Vancouver, BC, and has witnessed the effects of these prison stints for most of his adulthood. “Government policies, such as the residential schools, foster care, reserves, and systemic racism; all have contributed to the over-representation of Indigenous people in prisons within Canada”, he explained in an official statement.
Compelled to give a voice to this oftentimes voiceless message, Thomas felt that it was important to highlight the “incredible strength” and “resilience” of Indigenous people everywhere.
That’s not to say Circle of Eagles is a morbid experience. The film also draws focus to the healing aspects of the culture, and how ceremony and tradition help those who have been imprisoned get back into the swing of civilian life.
Thomas is a filmmaker with plenty of pedigree. He currently heads up the Promising Practices Films documentary series, which singles out uplifting stories regarding STDs like HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. The series has won several awards and it recently landed a distribution deal so it will be more widely available.
In addition to his documentary work, Thomas is the Chief Executive Officer for the Circle of Eagles Lodge Society. He has played a pivotal role in the development of programs and services meant for Indigenous people.
Some of these programs include a treatment facility for troubled youth, an Indigenous halfway house and homeless shelter for women, Elders meals on wheels, canoe projects, pre-employment programs and training, traditional and healing workshops, two resource centers, and a retail art store.
Giving back to the community is essential, and Thomas is trying to do that through both his business ventures and his art. Circle of Eagles is, in many ways, a call to change for the American way of life.
“We must challenge these systems, work within them to effect change, and only then will there be a better future for our children and grandchildren”, the filmmaker posited. “There is hope in culture and returning to Indigenous ways of knowing.” Circle of Eagles is the rare piece of art that’s informative as it is entertaining. We hope it gets in front of as many eyes as possible.