Warning: this film contains disturbing content and is recommended for audiences 16 years of age and older. Parental discretion, and/or watching this film within a group setting, is strongly advised. If you need counselling support, please contact Health Canada.
In this feature film, the profound impact of the Canadian government’s residential school system is conveyed through the eyes of two children who were forced to face hardships beyond their years. As young children, Lyna and Glen were taken from their homes and placed in church-run boarding schools, where they suffered years of physical, sexual and emotional abuse, the effects of which persist in their adult lives. We Were Children gives voice to a national tragedy and demonstrates the incredible resilience of the human spirit.
In a pounding critique of Canada's colonial history, this short film draws parallels between the annihilation of the bison in the 1890s and the devastation inflicted on the Indigenous population by the residential school system.This film is part of Souvenir, a series of four films addressing Indigenous identity and representation by reworking material in the NFB's archives.
In this feature-length documentary, Alanis Obomsawin tells the story of Shannen’s Dream, a national campaign to provide equitable access to education in safe and suitable schools for First Nations children. Strong participation in this initiative eventually brings Shannen's Dream all the way to the United Nations in Geneva.
Also available on the Alanis Obomsawin: A Legacy DVD box set
Fifteen-year-old Buckley (Buckley Petawabano) attends residential school, where he longs for his home and dreams of fishing and hunting. Yet when he returns to the reserve for the summer he feels like a stranger, unable to speak his Cree language or live off the land like his father and brothers. Johnny (Johnny Yesno), an Indigenous caretaker at the school, takes Buckley under his wing, introducing him to Indigenous history, culture, and knowledge. After finding Buckley’s frozen body in the snow, Johnny pieces together the events of the boy’s short life and tragic death, which left him unable to find a place for himself between the white and Indigenous worlds.Featuring the soulful music of Willie Dunn, Cold Journey's narrative is similar to the true story of Charlie Wenjack, a young Anishinaabe boy who froze to death running away from residential school in 1966. The film was made with members of the Indian Film Crew and features Chief Dan George.
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.
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
The Road Forward, a musical documentary by Marie Clements, 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. The Road Forward’s stunningly shot musical sequences, performed by an ensemble of some of Canada’s finest vocalists and musicians, seamlessly connect past and present with soaring vocals, blues, rock, and traditional beats. A rousing tribute to the fighters for First Nations rights, a soul-resounding historical experience, and a visceral call to action.
This short film portrays the experiences of Rhonda Gordon and her daughter, Angela, when a simple bus ride changes their lives in an unforeseeable way. When they are harassed by three boys, Rhonda finds the courage to take a unique and powerful stance against ignorance and prejudice. What ensues is a dramatic story of racism and empowerment.
This short documentary introduces us to Randy Baleski, a Winnipeg high school teacher and former boxer who has a unique approach to helping students at risk of not graduating: get them in the ring. We watch him work with two Indigenous teens from troubled backgrounds as they slowly come to understand that boxing is more than just a sport… it's a way of life.
This powerful short documentary showing Indigenous youth resistance and emerging voices that will continue to define the landscape of Indigenous cultural and political activism for the next generation. Members of the National Youth Council, including Duke Redbird and Harold Cardinal, have a powerful exchange with a hostile white priest about the failures of the education system in relation to Indigenous people. The group tackles issues including segregated residential schools, the denial of citizenship rights, loss of language, and mass incarceration, many of which persist or continue to be stumbling blocks in the relationship between Indigenous people and the Government of Canada today.
In five short minutes, this short film destroys any remaining shreds of the myth of a fair and just Canada. Children forced from their homes and sent to residential schools, families examined like livestock in crowded tuberculosis clinics, tainted water and land, poisoned for industry and profit at the cost of Indigenous lives, and the list goes on. But filmmaker Jeff Barnaby's message is clear: We are still here. Featuring the music of Tanya Tagaq.This film is part of Souvenir, a series of four films addressing Indigenous identity and representation by reworking material in the NFB's archives.