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The NFB and Indigenous Filmmaking Through The Years (Ages 15-17)

A playlist by Gil Cardinal
7 films
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Through its singular and long-standing commitment to Indigenous filmmaking, the National Film Board has been instrumental in providing Canadians a rich cultural resource and legacy: a comprehensive body of films inviting us all to share in the Indigenous experience. Films in This Playlist Include Foster Child Circle of the Sun You Are on Indian Land The Other Side of the Ledger: An Indian View of the Hudson’s Bay Company Is the Crown at War with Us? Totem: The Return of the G’psgolox Pole The Ballad of Crowfoot

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The NFB and Indigenous Filmmaking Through The Years  (Ages 15-17)

Through its singular and long-standing commitment to Indigenous filmmaking, the National Film Board has been instrumental in providing Canadians a rich cultural resource and legacy: a comprehensive body of films inviting us all to share in the Indigenous experience.

Films in This Playlist Include
Foster Child
Circle of the Sun
You Are on Indian Land
The Other Side of the Ledger: An Indian View of the Hudson’s Bay Company
Is the Crown at War with Us?
Totem: The Return of the G’psgolox Pole
The Ballad of Crowfoot

Gil Cardinal (1950-2015) was a director and writer based in Edmonton, Alberta. Of Métis descent, his documentary and dramatic work relates to Aboriginal issues and themes.

Playlist

  • Foster Child
    An important figure in the history of Canadian Indigenous filmmaking, Gil Cardinal was born to a Métis mother but raised by a non-Indigenous foster family, and with this auto-biographical documentary he charts his efforts to find his biological mother and to understand why he was removed from her. Considered a milestone in documentary cinema, it addressed the country’s internal colonialism in a profoundly personal manner, winning a Special Jury Prize at Banff and multiple international awards. “Foster Child is one of the great docs to come out of Canada, and nobody but Gil could have made it,” says Jesse Wente, director of Canada’s Indigenous Screen Office. “Gil made it possible for us to think about putting our own stories on the screen, and that was something new and important.”
  • Circle of the Sun

    Circle of the Sun marks the first time the Sun Dance ceremony of the Blood Indians of southern Alberta is documented on film. Directed by Colin Low, it begins with a ‘Voice of God’ narration, typical for films of that period. But then, the featured character of the film, Pete Standing Alone, takes over telling the story… and perhaps for the first time, the Aboriginal voice is heard, telling its own story.

  • You Are on Indian Land

    This film documents the protest demonstration by Mohawk Indians of the St. Regis Reserve on the international bridge between Canada and the United States near Cornwall, Ontario.
    The story is told from an Indian point of view, with Mike Mitchell of the NFB’s Indian Film Crew himself a primary subject of the film. Mike narrates as well, and the Aboriginal voice is central to the storytelling. Hearing a narrator using terms like “we,” “many of us,” “our land, our people” is much more intimate and inviting than the detached, observational, anthropological narration that can only say, “the Indians...”

  • The Other Side of the Ledger: An Indian View of the Hudson's Bay Company

    Following on from scenes of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s 300th anniversary celebration, with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip in attendance, the film bears down on applying the Aboriginal voice to a rather blunt indictment of a history of inequality in the trade relationship between the HBC and their Indian and Métis suppliers. Co-directed by Willie Dunn of the NFB’s Indian Film Crew.

  • Is the Crown at war with us?

    As the confrontation between Mi’gmaq fisherman in Burnt Church, New Brunswick and federal fishery officers comes to a head, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ boats violently ram and run over the much smaller boats of the Mi’gmaq fishers. Watching the footage, I’m reminded of the brutal scene during the Oka Crisis where the Kahnawake Mohawks are stoned as they cross the Mercier bridge [see Alanis Obomsawin’s Rocks at Whiskey Trench].

  • Totem: The Return of the G'psgolox Pole

    In this film, the Haisla of Kitamaat Village, B.C., tell the story of their efforts to reclaim a cultural heirloom: a mortuary totem pole taken from their ancestral lands, eventually discovered in a museum in Stockholm, Sweden.
    In broadcasts of the film on Swedish television the Haisla Aboriginal voice was heard and responded to. The people of Sweden put pressure on both the museum and the Swedish government to return the pole. [The pole’s return is documented in the follow-up film, Totem: Return and Renewal.]

  • The Ballad of Crowfoot

    Notable for being one of the first films produced by the NFB’s Indian Film Crew, The Ballad of Crowfoot is also remarkable for its haunting archival images set to an impassioned ballad written and performed by director Willie Dunn:
    “Crowfoot, Crowfoot, why the tears?
    You’ve been a brave man for many years,
    Why the sadness? Why the sorrow?
    Maybe there will be a better tomorrow.”