Over 200,000 people in Canada are deaf. For deaf francophones, Quebec Sign Language is essential to both their identity and their connection to the deaf community. In the past decades, parents and doctors have pushed for hearing aids, cochlear implants and a mainstream education for deaf kids. Yet this thrust into the hearing world has come at a price for some deaf students, who may have trouble following classroom activities and end up being marginalized.
The Dance of Words features young artists who have embraced their deaf identity in adulthood after spending a difficult childhood in the grey zone between hearing culture and deaf culture. These emerging artists show how they are using the arts to build a deaf culture that makes them proud. They shine a spotlight on their community while promoting and advancing deaf culture with a keen sensitivity.
In their small country home in New Brunswick, Jean-Paul and Anne, who suffer respectively from physical and intellectual impairments, share an unwavering love for each other. Declarations of love, little gifts, jokes and affectionate nicknames highlight their deeply moving relationship, a relationship that transcends difference. Together, they look after Jean-Paul’s ailing parents. With great respect for those who confide in him, Daniel Léger presents love through the eyes of two people with disabilities, and in so doing, creates an inspiring lesson in happiness.
This feature doc tells the story of the improbable friendship between acclaimed Quebec singer Félix Leclerc and the intriguing Frank Randolph Macpherson. A chemical engineer from Jamaica, Macpherson immigrated to Quebec in 1917 and was the inspiration for the popular song that Leclerc named after him. But this is also a story about memory: it was animator Martine Chartrand’s memory of this song that compelled her to create the striking animated short MacPherson, made by filming paintings on glass using 35mm film. A sympathetic look at an artist at work, Finding Macpherson takes audiences on a personal journey, exploring the imperceptible yet powerful connections that bind us to each other.
This feature documentary explores the world of adolescence in rural teenagers' interactions with various authority figures. Outside the classroom, though, the teens enjoy more control of their world; in this playground, they can test the limits of their temporary freedom. A work of patient observation relying mostly on uninterrupted long takes,Guidelines emphasizes the contrast between adult and adolescent, between the regulated classroom and the great outdoors, gradually revealing the interior drama of adolescence with its shifts from fragility to reckless abandon.
This feature documentary by renowned director and cinematographer Vic Sarin is a personal yet global investigation into the history and current state of colourism: the discrimination within one ethnicity based on differences in skin tone. Sarin travels the globe to discuss this complex cross-cultural social issue with individuals whose lives it affects, including a Filipina entrepreneur whose business has flourished within the billion-dollar skin-whitening industry. Hue leads viewers on a thoughtful and surprising journey to the heart of a painful and pervasive social issue that not only polices appearance, but also class, gender, and geography.
This feature documentary tells the stories of 5 asylum seekers who flee their native countries to escape homophobic violence. They face hurdles integrating into Canada, fear deportation and anxiously await a decision that will change their lives forever.
It’s the opportunity of a lifetime for artist Phil Richards, who’s been commissioned to create Canada’s official portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for her Diamond Jubilee. Academy Award®-nominated filmmaker Hubert Davis follows Richards over months of painstaking preparations, as he works to capture Her Majesty’s likeness and spirit on canvas.
In this short film, Toronto artist Petra Tolley, who has Down syndrome, performs a soliloquy that encapsulates her distinctive take on the social self. Drawing from her emotional experiences, she illustrates what it feels like to be “in the middle.” Employing rotoscopy, hand-drawn animation techniques and subtle stereoscopic 3D, the film captures Petra as she engages the camera with unflinching directness and dignity.
The people of the Attawapiskat First Nation, a Cree community in northern Ontario, were thrust into the national spotlight in 2012 when the impoverished living conditions on their reserve became an issue of national debate. With The People of the Kattawapiskak River, Abenaki director Alanis Obomsawin quietly attends as community members tell their own story, shedding light on a history of dispossession and official indifference. “Obomsawin’s main objective is to make us see the people of Attawapiskat differently,” said Robert Everett-Green in The Globe & Mail. “The emphasis, ultimately, is not so much on looking as on listening—the first stage in changing the conversation, or in making one possible.” Winner of the 2013 Donald Brittain Award for Best Social/Political Documentary, the film is part of a cycle of films that Obomsawin has made on children’s welfare and rights.
Also available on the Alanis Obomsawin: A Legacy DVD box set
This Emmy-nominated feature film is an intimate and evocative journey into the hearts, minds and eyes of Georgia O’Keeffe, Emily Carr and Frida Kahlo - 3 of the 20th century’s most remarkable artists. The film uses the women’s own words, taken from their letters and diaries, to reveal 3 individual creative processes in all their subtle and fascinating variety.
This feature documentary follows Canadian actress Babz Chula to Kerala, India, where she is to undergo treatment by a renowned Ayurvedic healer in an effort to manage her 6-year battle with cancer. The bare-bones Indian clinic at first disappoints, but Babz is uplifted as her condition seemingly shows marked signs of improvement following treatment and introspection. Returning home, however, it is revealed that her cancer has actually advanced. Amazingly, the irrepressible actress invites filmmaker Anne Wheeler to continue bearing witness to her journey into the unknown.
This feature-length documentary from Inuvialuit filmmaker Dennis Allen is an emotional and revealing exploration of addiction among Indigenous people in Canada.After years of struggle and shame, 5 Indigenous Canadians bravely come forward with their stories of substance abuse, presenting the sensitive topic of alcoholism in an honest and forthright manner. Alex, Paula, Desirae, Stephen, and Dennis himself maintain a deep and devoted commitment to their traditional culture to achieve long-term sobriety. Through their voices, this insightful doc offers an inspirational beacon of hope for others.
Ages 10 to 17
Arts Education - Visual Arts
Diversity - Identity
Family Studies/Home Economics - Relationships
Health/Personal Development - Careers & Education
Although deafness is often seen as a handicap, the people in this film prove that it can be an asset. Ask your students to analyze the film in this vein, to question how differences are viewed in their own community, and to explore the world of deaf people through their language and culture. What suggestions do your students have to better integrate the deaf and improve dialogue and sharing?