Issue: November 2015 - Indigenous Filmmaking

The Indigenous New Wave: a populist stage of Indigenous cinema

We’re living in the midst of a new movement in international cinema: the Indigenous New Wave. Unlike past movements, such as French New Wave or New Korean Cinema, this wave isn’t limited to one national cinema. It’s a global movement empowering indigenous artists to tell their stories and reshape cinema in their image. The term “Indigenous New Wave” was coined by Jesse Wente (director of Film Programming at the TIFF Bell Lightbox and pop culture critic for CBC’s Metro Morning), in an effort to explain the global coalescing of indigenous artists finding new means of expression in cinema over...

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The global appeal of Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner

In January of 2015, the Toronto International Film Festival held its decennial poll to determine Canada’s All Time Top Ten films. TIFF polled filmmakers, critics and academics to come up with consensus choices, and the result was a bit of a surprise to the uninitiated. Instead of Claude Jutra’s Mon Oncle Antoine topping the list, as it had done since the poll’s inception in 1984, Zacharias Kunuk’s Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner took its place as the best Canadian film. It was likely the first time an Indigenous film topped a national cinema poll — a landmark in international cinema....

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Resistance and resilience: a talk with Alanis Obomsawin

Alanis Obomsawin has just returned to Toronto from Chile at 5:30 this morning. It’s now 11:30 am, and she shows hardly a shred of jet lag or lethargy. She’s returning from a festival in Chile where all of her documentaries were screened to appreciative audiences, most of them screening more than once due to demand. On this brisk Saturday afternoon in early fall, the Abenaki filmmaker is swinging through Toronto to give a talk to the Indigenous Bar Association about the power and purpose of documentary filmmaking. After her brief sojourn in Toronto is completed, she’s immediately going back...

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By the people, for the people: Aboriginal youth discuss their portrayal in cinema

One thing our society is very often guilty of is ignoring the voices of the people whose opinion should matter most. We seem to think that if our intentions are good, it doesn’t matter if people are offended, because we didn’t mean for it to happen. This is a devastatingly problematic habit we fall into as a society, because we’re so afraid of being the bad guy that we fail to realize that sometimes being a mensch means owning up to our mistakes and working on making amends, rather than coming up with excuses. That’s partially why for this...

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Beyond badass: the anatomy of the female action hero

In her introduction to TIFF’s 2015 fall series, Beyond Badass: Female Action Heroes, programmer Kiva Reardon states that the films she’s programmed “test the limits of feminism, but they also inspire us to think of women’s roles on screen and [in] society.” Seeing these female-driven action films placed side-by-side highlights the fight these women face to be taken seriously. Even more so, the Beyond Badass series draws attention to how far that battle has come, and how much further it still has to go. The female form has been a fixation of cinema since its beginnings and the body...

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Indigenous Short Films: Forging a Cinematic Culture

In a medium dominated by the feature film format, short filmmaking retains a singular ability to express and strengthen unique, nuanced creative voices. This is true for any number of current and aspiring filmmakers, but has become especially apparent in Canada’s indigenous filmmaking community. Unbound by constraints of technology and finances, the short film reflects the artists’ ability to create and dictate their passion and vision. A glance at the 2015 imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival reveals a concerted effort to create a space for the many short films produced each year to find an audience, including programmes...

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What is an Indigenous film?

Film “ownership” usually lies in the director’s hands, no matter how many people are involved in the creation. Pulp Fiction (1994) will always be “A Quentin Tarantino Film”; Malcolm X (1992) is forever “A Spike Lee Joint.” David Cronenberg’s 1986 film The Fly (based upon a story by a British writer) was co-written by Cronenberg and another American writer. However, because it was directed by a Canadian and received Canadian funding, it’s a Canadian film. Because of this intrinsic connection between director and film, we can also say that any film directed by an indigenous person is “an indigenous...

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