Amplify Sobriety

  • The power of story and that lazy, dirty, drunken Indian story that they have been telling about us, told it since first contact. Told it throughout the colonial period. Told it to us in residential schools. They’re still telling it today … We’ve taken this story and internalized it and it’s destroying us.

    Harold Johnson
  • To think that I'm complicit in colonization the thing that I'm most angry at. By drinking that's exactly what I'm doing. I'm colonizing myself.

    Ansley Simpson

Episode 10


Ansley Simpson is a Toronto-based Anishinaabe musician known for her poetic lyrics, deeply moving vocal-only performances, and dream-like arrangements. She won ‘Best New Artist’ at the 2018 Indigenous Music Awards for her debut album “Breakwall” and is set to release a second album, “She Fell from the Sky” about Indigenous reclamation on her newly established Indigenous run label Gizhiiwe. In this episode, Ansley sets out to write a song about her personal connection between trauma and alcoholism, detailing her personal struggle towards sobriety.

Ansley finds inspiration from Cree author Harold Johnson’s book Firewater: How Alcohol is Killing My People (And Yours), which was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Awards in 2016. Harold pulls no punches in giving us statistics examining the problem with alcohol consumption explaining that, “Every 2nd person is going to die an alcohol related death. In any other situation we'd call that a crime against humanity here we just keep partying in the free world.”

The Team:
  • Director: Shane Belcourt
  • Producer: Michelle St John
  • Producer: Jeremy Edwardes
  • Producer: Shane Belcourt
  • Executive Producer: Jim Compton
  • Executive Producer: R. Todd Ivey
  • Featuring: Ansley Simpson
  • Featuring: Harold R. Johnson
  • Cinematographer: Sean Stiller
  • Editor: Shane Belcourt
  • Sound and score: Anthony Wallace


  • old indigenous man in black and white

Web Trailer

Author Harold Johnson pulls no punches in cutting to the chase with regards to what this episode is about. In fact the title of his book that he is referencing is “Firewater: How Alcohol is Killing My People and Yours.”

  • picture of mother and daughter in the fire

Ballad of the Firewater

Watch the music video for Ansley Simpson’s song Firewater. This music video was edited by Daniel Saveeda.

  • 2 women in a sound recording studio


Songwriter Ansley Simpson is accompanied by her music producer Simone Schmidt and studio engineer Annelise Noronha, as they walk through the songwriting and studio recording process for Firewater.


    Ansley Simpson is a Toronto-based Anishinaabe musician known for her poetic lyrics, deeply moving vocal-only performances, and dream-like arrangements. Nominated for two 2018 Indigenous Music Awards and winner of “Best New Artist”, her debut album “Breakwall” is a gentle, powerful collection of songs that showcase her lilting vocals, clear melodic sensibility, and intricate guitar playing to moving effect. She is a natural performer, holding audiences spellbound with story-telling embedded both in and out of her songs.

    Ansley’s lyrical hymns to love, perseverance, and possibility entwine you in an unfolding, sonic world of her own making. This is music to guide you back to the shore, when you’ve been lost too long in the waves. Ansley’s sophomore album, “She Fell from the Sky” an 11 track journey to indigenous reclamation is set for release on her newly established Indigenous run label Gizhiiwe (gihJEEway)

    singer ansley simpson

    Shane Belcourt is a two-time CSA-nominated Director, with award-winning narrative and documentary works in both film and TV. His debut feature film TKARONTO, had a theatrical release, was sold to SuperChannel and Air Canada, and was showcased in both the TIFF Indigenous Cinema Retrospective and the UCLA Film & Television Archive traveling exhibition, “Through Indian Eyes: Native American Cinema”. Shane also directed CHANIE WENJACK which Walrus Magazine noted as “the Heritage Minute Canada needs to see”. His most recent feature film, RED ROVER, premiered at the Whistler Film Festival, opened the Canadian Film Festival, and was released in March 2020 to glowing reviews.

    On the documentary side of things, Shane directed KAHA:WI, which features dancer and choreographer Santee Smith. It premiered at the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival, aired on APTN and CBC Docs, and won a CSC award for Best Cinematography in 2016, along with a CSA Best Director nomination. Shane co-directed (with Lisa Jackson) the CBC one-hour INDICTMENT: THE CRIMES OF SHELLY CHARTIER which won Best Doc at imagineNATIVE. And most recently, Shane is in post-production on a new 13-part music documentary series, AMPLIFY, which he created and will air on APTN in the Fall of 2020. And was a Consulting Producer (writing room story editor) on CBC”s new drama seres, THE TRICKSTER, set to air Fall 2020.

    Currently Shane is in development to direct a feature documentary, BEAUTIFUL SCARS, for TVO and Sky Network on internationally acclaimed songwriter Tom Wilson, and a feature narrative based around a family tale entitled DUMBBELL, which received development funding from Telefilm Canada. Shane is an alumna of the TIFF Talent Lab and NSI’s Totally Television programs, and a member of the DGC.

    shane belcourt

Ballad of the Firewater was recorded at Union Sound Company.

Union Sound Company was built in 2015 by owners Chris Stringer, Leon Taheny, and Ian Gomes. Their love of music, production, and the Toronto music community brought them together to create something that they felt was missing from their city. Their goal is to provide a comfortable, high-quality, and affordable recording space to serve the incredible talent within their city and beyond.

Address: 89 Sackville street, Toronto
Song producer: Simone Schmidt
Filming locations: Saugeen River CSA farm, Kana:ta Village - Brantford, City of Toronto