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Indigenous Voices on Screen

June 12, 2018
Ottawa Public Library

Through bold and often-innovative work, film is but one of many media in which First Nations, Métis and Inuit voices are making striking statements. The same can be said for Indigenous Peoples beyond Canada: film is a powerful medium through which to relate, document, and share the diversity of their stories and lived experiences.

This blog and list seek to highlight and celebrate just some of the film and video in Ottawa Public Library’s collection that brings to the fore the stories and lives of Indigenous Peoples in this country and beyond.

There are no shortage of First Nations, Métis and Inuit filmmakers creating stunning work, often while simultaneously breaking new ground in the Canadian film industry. Inuit-led Isuma Productions burst through with the success of Atanarjuat: the Fast Runner, and followed it with Before Tomorrow and The Journals of Knud Rasmussen. In their footsteps are exceptional films like Chloé Leriche’s emotive Atikamekw drama Tewehikan Epwamoci Mescanawa (Before the Streets), Jeff Barnaby’s innovative Rhymes for Young Ghouls, and Yves Sioui Durand’s searching and powerful Mesnak.

The work of Abenaki filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin – some of which is collected in the box set 270 Years of Resistance – has long been a forerunner in documentary film. The strength of her output is no doubt an inspiration for work like Alethea Arnaquq-Baril’s Angry Inuk and that of the multitude of Indigenous filmmakers and viewpoints collected in the series 8th Fire.

The future of Indigenous film is glimpsed in Wapikoni: Encounter in Kitcisakik, which tracks the work of Wapikoni Mobile, a travelling filmmaking school seeking to give Indigenous youth the tools to tell their own stories. Even beyond the increasing number of First Nations, Métis and Inuit works in OPL’s collection, be aware that Indigenous film throughout Canada continues to grow: the National Film Board recently established an Indigenous Cinema site, and the institution of an Indigenous Screen Office seeks to build upon the successes noted above.

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