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New Artwork Released!

Rot Machine / Watercolor / 18x24 / Smiley

I recently hosted the TURNT ART SHOW in downtown Los Angeles for myself and 22 friends. I’ll post photos from it a bit later this week, along with a write up on the event. In the meantime, please enjoy some of my new pieces:

 

If you’ve made it this far in reading this post, type “friendsofsmiley” in the discount box at the checkout for a $75.00 discount.

Love,

Matt

 

Matt Smiley at the TURNT ART SHOW
Matt Smiley at the TURNT ART SHOW
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Rest in Peace Kristin Elizabeth Johnston

Kristin Elizabeth Johnston

I’m at a loss for words today. For the better part of the last few years, I’ve worked tirelessly to bring awareness to violence against women. In that quest, I’ve met and worked with many wonderful individuals from all walks of life. In many cases, various friends from my childhood would reach out as I was traveling across the country with “Highway of Tears”. One of them, was my dear friend, Kristin Johnson. Kristin, represented happiness. She was a ray of light. While we lost touch for a number of years, I reached out to Kristin as I was planning on screening in Halifax, but couldn’t really seem to get things organized in time.

To my surprise, Kristin was following the project and was eager to help in any way she could.

She did more than that.

Within a very short time frame, Kristin managed to pull the community together to get a space donated for a charity screening to benefit the Loretta Saunders Scholarship Fund. Having started her own business, an amazing yoga studio, Kristen was very much involved in the community.

While I wasn’t expecting much, Kristin continued to give and to push for our screenings to be successful. She also linked our production with a local business, Scout + Burrow, who in turn, managed to raise a few thousand dollars for Loretta’s Scholarship Fund.

She didn’t stop there. She reached out to everyone in town and found me a place to stay. Even with her busy schedule, she found  the time to plaster the city with posters. Kristin had a heart of gold.

Her help to raise awareness for missing and murdered women didn’t stop there. We continued to talk and she expressed an interest in being at our screening in Tofino, as she was going to visit her sister, brother-in-law and her little niece, Hannah. Kristin moved around her travel schedule by a day or so in order to be present and lend her support.

Again, her heart opened up.  She reached out to her sister and her brother-in-law Cameron, in order to let them know I’d be in town screening the film. They all helped as much as possible because they cared. When I had the honor of being a guest on Cameron’s radio show, he expressed a lot of passion for what I was doing. Off the record, he shared his thoughts on the issue of missing and murdered women. As a ‘new’ father, he said the project really marked him. I’ll never forget that conversation.

All this to say, I’m utterly devastated by the news of Kristin’s tragic death. While I don’t yet have the details, I did learn that it was a crime. A domestic crime. My heart today is shattered. I feel like there’s a lot more work to do in order to bring more awareness to violence. I took a break from speaking engagements for several months, as I focused on finding other projects to work on. This tragedy strikes me at my very core.

In Kristin’s honor (and the thousands of missing and murdered women across Canada), I will continue to push for awareness. This violence must stop. As a start, I’m making “highway of Tears” available for free to rent through the weekend. Please make a donation to a charity of your choice in memory of Kristin. Or just reach out to a loved one and  tell them how much they mean to you.

LINK TO FILM

I also invite you to read Nathaniel Basen’s post about Kristin. It brought me to tears. His eloquent words very much encapsulate her spirit.

With this, I leave you with a photo of Kristin, her beloved niece and sister that I took in Tofino (British Columbia) at our anti-violence rally. Kristin is on the left holding her niece.

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You will be forever in my heart, Kristin. And dearly missed.

Love,

 

Matt

 

 

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Meet The Women Making Up Half Of Justin Trudeau’s Cabinet

I’m really proud of the Cabinet choices Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has picked today. A huge congratulations to Carolyn Bennet on being named the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs. In having the good fortune of meeting her a few months ago in Ottawa, I can safely say that her intentions are honest, clear and heartfelt. She’s a wickedly brilliant woman and will continue to do great things for Canada.

Carolyn Bennett, Toronto-St. Paul's, Ontario
Carolyn Bennett, Toronto-St. Paul’s, Ontario

Meet Canada’s new female cabinet ministers.

Source: Meet The Women Making Up Half Of Justin Trudeau’s Cabinet

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HIGHWAY OF TEARS: VIMEO ON DEMAND

Still shot from "Highway of Tears"

Very happy to announce that “Highway of Tears” is now available on Vimeo On Demand.

HIGHWAY OF TEARS from Matt Smiley on Vimeo.

Since the late 1960s, at least forty young women have disappeared along the “Highway of Tears” — a 500-mile, single-lane stretch of roadway in northern British Columbia. Shrouded in mystery until a recent Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) special investigation linked DNA from one of the vanished victims to a deceased American criminal, these cold cases reveal sweeping crimes: kidnapping, rape, torture, murder, and the disposal of human bodies.

Aboriginal communities have experienced the brunt of the brutality: dozens of their women have disappeared along the highway, victims of not only murderous predators, but of a pervasive, systemic racism that keeps them marginalized on impoverished reservations. First Nation leaders and activists contend there has been little interest in further investigating the crimes and in apprehending their killers.

Narrated by TV Star Nathan Fillion (“Castle,” CBS), Matthew Smiley’s award-winning documentary illustrates the personal stories of the victim’s families and explores how a legacy of generational poverty, high unemployment, and endemic violence in their communities continues to contribute to their tragic fate.

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HIGHWAY OF TEARS PRE-ORDER

Take advantage of our exclusive “Highway of Tears” discounted online pre-order of $9.99 before July 26th. The price will be $14.99 afterwards.

Thank you so much for all your support. I look forward to announcing my next project soon!

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Get your Highway of Tears Pre-Sale Copy Now 

It has been a little over a year since we first premiered “Highway of Tears” at the TIFF Human Rights Watch Film Festival in Toronto. I was rather surprised by the response of the film as I didn’t really anticipate the impact it would have on people. I went into the whole filmmaking process with no expectations. It was probably the first time in my life where I dove into something I was passionate about without really thinking through exactly what my expectations were.

When I started my research about the missing and murdered women along Highway 16, I didn’t know their stories would consume my thoughts. I wanted to find out why these murdered and disappearances were happening in Canada and why I hadn’t heard about them before.

Touring with the documentary was an eye opening experience. I never could’ve possibly imagined the impact the screenings would have. I really enjoyed visiting various parts of the country. It was also really hard to hear the countless stories of hardship many Canadians hold inside. Every city and community has stories of loss and grief.

I made “Highway of Tears” out of passion. It was a learning process as an artist to step forward and fight for what I believed in. I went where the stories lead me and I didn’t let any obstacles stop me from achieving my goal.

We’ve now finally made it to the point of getting the film out to a wider audience. I’m extremely happy to have signed a distribution deal with a Canadian company from my hometown of Montreal, Filmoption International. I picked the company because I believe they understood the goals we had for the film. The company is run by two women and they have strong relationships with the educational and international markets, so I knew we would be well represented.

"Highway of Tears" distributor Filmoption International.
“Highway of Tears” distributor Filmoption International.

I’m going to head back on the road for a few screenings, but I’m most looking forward to our worldwide launch screenings in Vancouver at the VanCity Theatre on July 26, 2015. We have two screenings (7pm & 9pm) that will have Q&As afterwards. For those of you that don’t live in Vancouver, or can’t make it to our screenings, please take a moment to sign up for our VHX newsletter, as there will be some opportunities to participate in the event in order to make it a memorable night in history.

VHX Highway of Tears Pre-Order NOW
VHX Highway of Tears Pre-Order NOW

If you haven’t yet, please support our efforts on this project and buy a discounted pre-order digital copy of the film. By doing so you’re directly supporting our efforts on the film, our public outreach and hopefully the chance to continue telling stories that will touch people and move them to action.

In the coming weeks I will share some of the projects I’ve been developing and planning to shoot over the next year.

Since the late 1960s, at least eighteen young women — many of them from disadvantaged First Nations communities — have disappeared or been found murdered along the 724-kilometre stretch of Highway 16 in northern British Columbia. None of these cold cases were ever solved until 2012, when a special RCMP investigation was able to link DNA from one of the murder victims to deceased US criminal Bobby Jack Fowler; but this single answer has done little to heal the wounds of Aboriginal communities who have seen dozens of their young women vanish along the “Highway of Tears,” victims not only of murderous predators but of the systemic racism of a federal government that keeps them trapped on impoverished reservations and, as critics charge, evinced little interest in apprehending their killers. Narrated by Nathan Fillion, Matt Smiley’s award-winning documentary “Highway of Tears” not only movingly relates the personal stories of the victims, but investigates how the legacy of generational poverty, high unemployment and endemic violence in their communities contributed to their tragic fates — and how contemporary First Nations leaders are striving to cure those ills.

Source: Highway of Tears