The future looks radiant for the aboriginal cinema in Canada and elsewhere

Photo: Chris Young The canadian Press
The actor Ajuawak Kapashesit poses for a photo as he promotes the film “Indian Horse” at the Festival international du film de Toronto, in September 2017.

The aboriginal filmmaker, Alanis Obomsawin has never thought that it would be such a turnaround in his lifetime.


Fifty years after he started his brilliant career in spite of major obstacles in terms of funding, the director aged 85, who grew up in Quebec, is euphoric to see native films occupy a position as “exciting” at the dawn of 2018 thanks to new initiatives such as the Bureau of audiovisual productions, Canada’s aboriginal people.


“Any native person who wants to make a movie, if there is a right time, it is this one,” said the documentary filmmaker abenaki attached to the telephone in Montreal, where she worked on the editing of his 51st feature film.


“I have the feeling that we’re moving really to a place where we never went before. I know that Canadians are really listening now and they want to know the truth. “


After decades of misrepresentation and under-representation in the canadian film industry, indigenous culture saw a revival.


One of the most important factors to have changed the situation is the Bureau of audiovisual productions, Canada’s aboriginal peoples, a partnership between the Network aboriginal peoples television (APTN), CBC/SRC, Canada media Fund (CMF), Telefilm Canada, the canadian Association of media production (CMPA) and the national film Board of Canada (NFB).


The Office, whose creation was announced in June, aims to develop long-term strategies to contribute to the development, production and marketing of content within the film industry aboriginal in Canada.


“I think it is a great, great step forward for Canada, something that was necessary and something that was called for years,” said Jesse Wente, an aboriginal based in Toronto and a critic of films that have recently created the series Keep Calm and Decolonize for CBC Arts.


“I think the Office will facilitate the development of native talent, so that they are able to support these projects, the design of stories told from the point of view of Aboriginal people and the development of teams and points of view of aboriginal people, which, I believe, has always been difficult to do for the industry and the community. “


Of Indigenous peoples in decision-making positions


“What we hope is to arrive at a time when, within the Office, this will be the Aboriginal that will give the green light to projects run by Aboriginal people, which does not currently exist and has never existed, to places such as Telefilm or the CMF,” said Jason Ryle, the festival’s artistic director imagineNATIVE.


“We’re looking for this type of work. There’s an audience for this type of work. “


In addition, the NFB is currently working on a strategy, which is expected to take three years to redefine its relationship with aboriginal peoples. Unveiled in June, the strategy provides for, inter alia, that 15% of the funds will be allocated to projects run by Aboriginal people, an initiative which immediately entered into force.


The productions aboriginal people have also been under the spotlight over the past year in the course of the various celebrations organized for the 150th anniversary of Canada, and Telefilm Canada has promised to increase its support to the filmmakers and directors in aboriginal people.


“The future looks bright,” admitted Mr. Ryle.


“We have never been in such a position. The discussions that we have currently are very different from those we had, there was just one year ago. Two years ago, they were completely different. “


Several observers believe that the recommendations of the Commission of truth and reconciliation on indian residential schools have also strongly contributed to this change for the benefit of aboriginal filmmakers, while the appearance of accessible tools such as smart phones and streaming services like Netflix have democratized the system.


The film, expected in 2018


Among the native films that will feature in 2018 figure Indian Horse, a film based on a novel by Richard Wagamese recounts the memories of a survivor of the residential schools. Clint Eastwood acted as executive producer for the drama, due out on April 13.


Also expected next year : Angelique’s Isle-of-Michelle Derosier and Marie-Hélène Cousineau, inspired by a story by James R. Stevens, which takes place in 1845 during the ” rush to the copper “, and Nuuca of Michelle Latimer, which focuses on the oil boom in North Dakota and will be entitled to an international premiere at the Sundance film Festival in January 2018.


Mary Clements, Danis Goulet, Lisa Jackson and Shane Belcourt are also part of aboriginal filmmakers who are starting to get people talking about them in Canada.


However, one should not believe that all these films that only address traditional topics and issues specific to indigenous peoples.


According to Jesse Wente, some filmmakers create stories in futuristic or fantastic.


This is the case of Jeff Barnaby, who grew up on the reserve mi’kmaq of Listuguj, Quebec. He is currently working on Blood Quantum, a zombie film taking place outside of the reserve mi’gmaq Red Crow.


For Ms. Obomsawin, this in contrast with its beginnings, when it was struggling to find funding for his documentaries, such as Mother of Many Children and Incident at Restigouche.


“I think it’s easier now, she pointed out. Many organisations provide more money for Aboriginal people to do their work, whether in the field of cinema or as an artist, painter or author. “


“It’s like a bomb that explodes everywhere, it is so exciting!!! “