National Film Board’s Indigenous Cinema tours North Island

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Director Alethea Arnaquq-Baril (second from left), with Nunavut seal hunters from her film Angry Inuk, the first in a film series coming to North Vancouver Island as part of the National Film Board of Canada’s Aabiziingwashi (Wide Awake) Indigenous Cinema Tour.
Photo by Qajaaq Ellsworth, courtesy National Film Board of Canada

By Trish Weatherall

Published in the North Island Eagle newspaper Sept. 1, 2017

The National Film Board of Canada’s Aabiziingwashi (Wide Awake) Indigenous Cinema Tour comes to the North Island this Fall. The NFB offers more than 250 Canadian films recounting personal experiences and true histories, told by First Nations, Métis, and Inuit filmmakers from every region of the country, and four will be shown in Port Hardy and Port McNeill from September to December.

“Powerful, political, and profound, these films will initiate and inspire conversations on identity, family, community, and nationhood,” says the Wide Awake promotional site.

Don Kattler, Housing First Project Lead at Sacred Wolf Friendship Society in Port Hardy, initiated the screenings of four Indigenous films to bring awareness and knowledge to local audiences, and as a fundraiser, with proceeds going to the local Housing First Initiative, a federal government program to house the homeless.

“Film is a good way to bring people together in the community, and to spark dialogue, create new relationships, and build understanding around Truth and Reconciliation,” said Kattler. “It’s especially important for our North Island community, for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. It allows non-Indigenous people to see our country’s issues and history through Indigenous eyes. And it confirms lived experiences for Indigenous viewers.” 

Last May, Kattler brought Us and Them, a film focused on homelessness, to Port Hardy. With attendance of about 250 people, and a diverse crowd from youth to seniors, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, and homeless individuals, the film screening raised funds to assist housing three local homeless citizens.

Kattler decided to continue the momentum and bring more films to local audiences. This time, films will be shown in both Port Hardy and Port McNeill, to encourage attendance from residents in Alert Bay and Sointula.

Kattler chose four newly released films directed by Indigenous Canadian women to show locally.

The first film, Angry Inuk, by director Alethea Arnaquq-Baril of Nunavut, follows seal hunter activists in Nunavut on their quest to fight the European Union ban on seal skin products. It interweaves the reality of Inuit life with their challenge to the anti-sealing industry and to nations that mine resources on Inuit lands while simultaneously destroying the main sustainable economy available there. The 85-minute 2016 film has been screened around the world and has already garnered several awards, including Best Documentary at the Canadian imagineNATIVE Film Festival 2016, the Social Justice Award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, and a People’s Choice Award at Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival 2017.

We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice,by Abenaki filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin covers the nine-year legal battle (eventually victorious!) of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations against Indian Affairs and Northern Development Canada for inferior and underfunded family and child support services

The Road Forward, a musical documentary by director Marie Clements of Galiano Island, B.C., connects a pivotal moment in Canada’s civil rights history—the beginnings of Indian Nationalism in the 1930s—with the powerful momentum of First Nations activism today. 

Birth of a Family, follows victims of the 60s Scoop, three sisters and a brother adopted as infants into separate families across North America, who meet for the first time in this deeply moving documentary by director Tasha Hubbard of Saulteaux, Metis, Cree, and Nakota descent.

Films will be shown locally as follows:

Port Hardy Civic Centre:

Port McNeill Gatehouse Theatre:

  • We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice: Oct. 18, 2017 at 6:00 pm
  • The Road Forward: Nov. 22, 2017 at 6:00 pm
  • Birth of a Family: Dec. 13, 2017 at 6:00 pm

Early bird special price of $15 for all four film screenings, and individual admission is $5. Tickets are available at Café Guido in Port Hardy and Flora Borealis in Port McNeill.

The Aabiziingwashi (Wide Awake) film tour is part of the NFB’s three-year plan and commitments to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada process, developed in collaboration with an Indigenous advisory group, that includes developing community-based strategies for connecting its films to Indigenous and non-Indigenous audiences.