Diane Obomsawin's whimsical animated short follows medicine man Walk-in-the-forest on a walk in the woods that leads to the discovery of an intriguing secret world.Vistas is a series of 13 short films on nationhood from 13 Indigenous filmmakers from Halifax to Vancouver. It was a collaborative project between the NFB and APTN to bring Indigenous perspectives and stories to an international audience.
This introspective short animation takes place In the village of Carcross, in the Tagish First Nation. Neighbourhood pillar Grandma Kay tell the local children the tale of how Crow brought fire to people. As the story unfolds, we also meet 12-year-old Tish, an introspective, talented girl who feels drawn to the elder. Here, past and present blend, myth and reality meet, and the metaphor of fire infuses all in a location that lies at the heart of this Native community’s spiritual and cultural memory.
In The Mountain of SGaana, Haida filmmaker Christopher Auchter spins a magical tale of a young man who is stolen away to the spirit world, and the young woman who rescues him. The film brilliantly combines traditional animation with formal elements of Haida art, and is based on a story inspired by a old Haida fable.
Released in 1971, this lyrical short documentary marked the directorial debut of legendary Abenaki director Alanis Obomsawin. Filmed at a residential school in northern Ontario, it is composed entirely of drawings by young Cree children and stories told by the children themselves. Listening has been at the core of Obomsawin’s practice since the very beginning. “Documentary film,” she said in a 2017 interview, “is the one place that our people can speak for themselves. I feel that the documentaries that I’ve been working on have been very valuable for the people, for our people to look at ourselves… and through that be able to make changes that really count for the future of our children to come.”
This very short film from the Canada Vignettes series documents the annual pilgrimage that members of Saskatchewan’s Métis Catholic community make to St. Laurent, a village in the Duck Lake area that became the Métis nation’s spiritual centre at the time of the 1885 Northwest Rebellion.
XO Rad Magical is a personal lyrical poem about the daily struggle of living with schizophrenia. This psychedelic and hypnotic film shows that there is beauty in the brains of those who are at war with themselves.
Produced as part of the 12th edition of the NFB’s Hothouse apprenticeship.
This feature-length documentary explores the diabetes epidemic within Indigenous communities in Canada. Ojibway filmmaker Brion Whitford lives with the pain of advanced diabetes, but shunned traditional Indigenous medicine and healing practices. But as his health deteriorated, he had a change of heart. Join Brion as he connects with his culture, comes to grips with his own mortality, and tries to re-establish balance in his life.
Just north of the City of Edmonton lies Poundmaker’s Lodge, an addiction and mental-health facility specializing in treatment for Indigenous people. Founded in 1973 and still operational today, the Lodge’s programs and services are Indigenous-run and based in culturally appropriate recovery and healing techniques. Framing the short documentary with the words of the great Plains Cree Chief Pîhtokahanapiwiyin (Poundmaker), Alanis Obomsawin presents a frank examination of the root causes of substance abuse in Indigenous communities and how the absence of love and support – exacerbated by the impacts of colonialism and racism – created a legacy of alcoholism for some individuals.
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 short documentary follows three Indigenous women as they practice ancestral forms of worship: drumming, singing, and using sweetgrass. These ancient spiritual traditions may at first seem at odds with urban life, but to Indigenous people in Canada who are used to praying in natural settings, the whole world is sacred space.
Kamala Todd's short film is a lyrical portrait of Cease Wyss, of the Squamish Nation. Wyss is a woman who understands the remarkable healing powers of the plants growing all over downtown Vancouver. Whether it's the secret curl of a fiddlehead, or the gentleness of comfrey, plants carry ageless wisdom with them, communicated through colour, texture, and form. Wyss has been listening to this unspoken language and is now passing this ancient and intimate connection down to her own daughter, Senaqwila.
Accompanied by a song in the Lil̓wat7úl language, we follow a woman as she makes gwùshum, a Stl’atl’imx (Líl̓wat) dessert and a very special treat. From the harvesting of the xúsum (soapberries or salmonberries) to the construction of the corn-husk whisk, a dish is created that is equal measures mouthwatering and awe-inspiring.
This short is part of the L’il’wata series. In the early 1970s, at the outset of her documentary career, Alanis Obomsawin visited the Stl’atl’imx (Líl̓wat) Nation, an Interior Salish First Nation in British Columbia, and created a series of shorts that provide personal narratives about their culture, histories and knowledge.
Ages 14 to 17
Arts Education - Visual Arts
Media Education - Film Animation
Technology Education - Communications and Technology
This animated short plays on the traditional notions of First Nations art. Identify three key characteristics of First Nations art. After viewing Walk-in-the-Forest, ask students how the animator integrates traditional aboriginal styles, and motifs into this short film. Consider how the animation evokes a style that is reminiscent of traditional NFB animated films. Define the word “iconic” and explain how this film draws influences from iconic sources.