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Richard Cardinal: Cry from a Diary of a Métis Child

Richard Cardinal: Cry from a Diary of a Métis Child

| 29 min

Richard Cardinal died by his own hand at the age of 17, having spent most of his life in a string of foster homes and shelters across Alberta. In this short documentary, Abenaki director Alanis Obomsawin weaves excerpts from Richard’s diary into a powerful tribute to his short life. Released in 1984—decades before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission—the film exposed the systemic neglect and mistreatment of Indigenous children in Canada’s child welfare system. Winner of the Best Documentary Award at the 1986 American Indian Film Festival, the film screened at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 2008 as part of an Obomsawin retrospective, and continues to be shown around the world.

This film deals with mature subject matter. Viewer discretion is advised

  • director
    Alanis Obomsawin
  • script
    Alanis Obomsawin
  • producer
    Alanis Obomsawin
    Marrin Canell
    Robert Verrall
  • executive producer
    Andy Thomson
  • camera
    Roger Rochat
  • sound
    Raymond Marcoux
  • editing
    Rita Roy
  • sound editing
    Bernard Bordeleau
    Jackie Newell
  • voice
    David Mitchell
  • re-recording
    Hans Peter Strobl
  • music
    Dario Domingues
  • cast
    Pauline Kerik
    Leslie Miller
    Betty Smith
    Cory Swan


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Ages 12 to 17

Family Studies/Home Economics - Family Diversity and Challenges
Family Studies/Home Economics - Relationships
Health/Personal Development - Mental Health/Stress/Suicide
Indigenous Studies - Identity/Society
Indigenous Studies - Issues and Contemporary Challenges
Social Studies - Social Policies and Programs

Clarify the meaning of the word “Métis” prior to viewing the film. Discuss why Richard’s family was separated. Do you believe Richard’s story is unique? How did the social welfare system fail Richard and his family? Why do you think Richard committed suicide? Comment on Leo Crothers’ decision to photograph Richard’s body. What did he hope to gain by doing so? Was he successful?

Richard Cardinal: Cry from a Diary of a Métis Child
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