Indigenous Cinema in the Classroom (Ages 12–14)

Indigenous Cinema in the Classroom (Ages 12–14)

These films for middle-school learners feature stories from acclaimed filmmakers Thérèse Ottawa, Gil Cardinal, Caroline Monnet, and others from across Canada.

Indigenous Cinema in the Classroom is an extension of our Wide Awake Tour for the public. It offers teachers, students and parents the opportunity to watch films selected from our collection of more than 250 Indigenous-made works. We’ve created playlists of these titles, grouping them by student age recommendation and professional development themes for teachers.

They touch on various subjects related to the topic of nationhood, including: the search for identity, Atikamekw roots, fatherhood, richness of heritage, celebration of heritage and the power of dancing in a powwow, ignorance, prejudice, racism, empowerment, bullying, discrimination, the Abenaki tribe, loss of home and land, colonization, the Indian Act and Bill C-31, Indigenous stereotypes, Indigenous pride, the Haisla people of British Columbia, the journey of the G’psgolox Pole, Indigenous languages, the Talking Circle, the Potlatch, Indigenous medicine, intergenerational knowledge, present-day environmental issues and concerns, oppression and resistance, conflict resolution, traditional Indigenous dance, hunting and trapping, Pete Standing Alone and the Blood Indians of Southern Alberta (English only), residential schools, preserving the traditional ways of life, and Indigenous elders.

Curriculum links include:
Diversity and Pluralism – Identity, Indigenous Studies – Identity/Society/History and Politics, Health and Personal Development – Disease Prevention, Social Studies – Social History/Canadian Politics and Government/Law, English Language Arts, Visual Arts, Media Education, History and Citizenship Education – Population and Settlement/Culture and Currents of Thought/Civil Rights and Freedoms

  • Now Is the Time
    2019|16 min

    When internationally renowned Haida carver Robert Davidson was only 22 years old, he carved the first new totem pole on British Columbia’s Haida Gwaii in almost a century. On the 50th anniversary of the pole’s raising, Haida filmmaker Christopher Auchter steps easily through history to revisit that day in August 1969, when the entire village of Old Massett gathered to celebrate the event that would signal the rebirth of the Haida spirit.

  • Birth of a Family
    2016|1 h 19 min

    In this deeply moving feature-length documentary, three sisters and a brother meet for the first time. Removed from their young Dene mother during the infamous Sixties Scoop, they were separated as infants and adopted into families across North America.

    Betty Ann, Esther, Rosalie, and Ben were only four of the 20,000 Indigenous Canadian children taken from their families between 1955 and 1985, to be either adopted into white families or live in foster care. As the four siblings piece together their shared history, their connection deepens, and their family begins to take shape.

  • Holy Angels

    In 1963, Lena Wandering Spirit became one of the more than 150,000 Indigenous children who were removed from their families and sent to residential school. Jay Cardinal Villeneuve’s short documentary Holy Angels powerfully recaptures Canada’s colonialist history through impressionistic images and the fragmented language of a child. Villeneuve met Lena through his work as a videographer with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Filmed with a fierce determination to not only uncover history but move past it, Holy Angels speaks of the resilience of a people who have found ways of healing—and of coming home again.

  • Three Thousand
    2017|14 min

    In this short film, Inuk artist Asinnajaq plunges us into a sublime imaginary universe—14 minutes of luminescent, archive-inspired cinema that recast the present, past and future of her people in a radiant new light.

    Diving into the NFB’s vast archive, she parses the complicated cinematic representation of the Inuit, harvesting fleeting truths and fortuitous accidents from a range of sources—newsreels, propaganda, ethnographic docs, and work by Indigenous filmmakers. Embedding historic footage into original animation, she conjures up a vision of hope and beautiful possibility.

  • Red Path
    2015|15 min

    This short documentary tells the story of Tony Chachai, a young Indigenous man in search of his identity. Moved by the desire to reconnect with his Atikamekw roots, he delivers a touching testimony on the journey that brought him closer to his family and community. On the verge of becoming a father himself, he becomes increasingly aware of the richness of his heritage and celebrates it by dancing in a powwow.

    This film was produced as part of Tremplin NIKANIK, a competition for francophone First Nations filmmakers in Quebec.

  • Round Up
    2010|18 min

    This short film traces Pete Standing Alone's personal journey from cultural alienation to pride and belonging. As a spiritual elder, teacher, and community leader of the Kainai Nation of Southern Alberta, Pete works with youth to repair the cultural and spiritual destruction wrought by residential schools. At age 81, he has come full-circle in his dedication to preserving the traditional ways of his people.

  • 360 Degrees
    2008|18 min

    This short film introduces us to Sébastien Aubin, a French-speaking member of Manitoba's Opaskwayak Cree Nation. He works as a graphic artist for a living, but he's embarked on a personal spiritual and identity quest on the side. Attempting to transcend the material world, he's apprenticing in traditional Indigenous medicine with healer Mark Thompson. The relationship between the two figures marks the contrast between generations; between modernity and tradition. It makes the 360-degree turn from the values of the past to those of today strikingly apparent.

    This documentary was made as part of the Tremplin program, with the collaboration of Radio-Canada.

  • Totem: Return and Renewal
    2007|23 min

    In this follow-up to his 2003 film, Totem: the Return of the G'psgolox Pole, filmmaker Gil Cardinal documents the events of the final journey of the G'psgolox Pole as it returns home to Kitamaat and the Haisla people, from where it went missing in 1929.

  • Vistas: Trapper
    2009|2 min

    This beautiful short film captures the quiet dignity of a day in the life of a Northern trapper, without use of any dialogue.

    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.

  • Vistas: Button Blanket

    This short impressionist documentary looks at the creation of a Button Blanket by integrating the performance of a traditional dance with the art of the West Coast Heiltsuk Nation.

    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.

  • Vistas - The Visit
    2009|3 min

    This animated short tells the true story of a Cree family's strange encounter one winter night, which results in a conversation beyond words.

    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.

  • Vistas: Wave a Red Flag
    2009|4 min

    In this short film, a young girl discovers the meaning of community and cultural pride after her mother insists she wave a red flag on her way to school.

    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.

  • When All the Leaves Are Gone
    2010|17 min

    As the only First Nations student in an all-white 1940s school, eight-year old Wato is keenly aware of the hostility towards her. She deeply misses the loving environment of the reserve she once called home, and her isolation is sharpened by her father’s serious illness. When Wato’s teacher reads from a history book describing First Nations peoples as ignorant and cruel, it aggravates her classmates’ prejudice. Shy and vulnerable Wato becomes the target of their bullying and abuse. Alone in her suffering, she finds solace and strength in the protective world of her magical dreams.

    Inspired by personal experiences of writer and director Alanis Obomsawin, When All the Leaves are Gone combines autobiography, fiction and fable to create a deeply moving story about the power of dreams.

  • Vistas: Crossing the Line
    2009|3 min

    Filmmaker Tracey Deer's short film turns the politics and conflicts of a playground sandbox into an allegory for the way nations treat one another, and the borders seem to do more harm than good.

    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.

  • Vistas: Boxed In
    2009|4 min

    In this short film, a young woman of mixed ancestry struggles with an Equal Opportunity Form that requires her to respond to the dilemma: Ethnicity - Choose One.

    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.

  • As I Am
    2010|4 min

    This short experimental documentary challenges stereotypes about Indigenous people in the workplace. Featuring portraits set to a powerful poem by Mohawk writer Janet Marie Rogers, the film urges viewers to go beyond their preconceived notions. As I Am is a celebration of Indigenous people's pride in their work and culture.

    This film is part of the Work For All series, produced by the National Film Board of Canada, with the participation of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.

  • Waban-Aki: People from Where the Sun Rises
    2006|1 h 44 min

    In this feature-length documentary from Alanis Obomsawin, the filmmaker returns to the village where she was raised to craft a lyrical account of her own people. After decades of tirelessly recording others' stories, she focuses this film on her own.

  • For Angela

    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.