Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance


On a July day in 1990, a confrontation propelled Native issues in Kanehsatake and the village of Oka, Quebec, into the international spotlight. Director Alanis Obomsawin spent 78 nerve-wracking days and nights filming the armed stand-off between the Mohawks, the Quebec police and the Canadian army. This powerful documentary takes you right into the action of an age-old Aboriginal struggle. The result is a portrait of the people behind the barricades.

Manifesto Point # 1: The original project idea and goals come from the community partner. Kanehsatake 270 Years of Resistance is arguably Alanis Obomsawin's most important film, documenting the military 1990 siege of a Mohawk reserve near Oka, Quebec, and its causes. I chose this film here because the celebrated Abenaki filmmaker told me recently: "For me a real documentary is when you are really listening to somebody. They are the ones that tell you what the story is. Not you." Alanis said these words in the short the film I made about her, called Dream Magic (2008). I actually first saw Alanis in person behind the barricades at the Oka Crisis, back in 1990. She was there with her camera, and with army helicopters and madness swirling all around, she was an apparition of hope. I was a student journalist, furious with the disparity unfolding between the reality I saw before me, and the mainstream media's skewed interpretations of it. But because of Alanis, I was also witnessing the power of documentary firsthand. It is Alanis who first showed me almost two decades ago how collaborative the process can — and should — be. And from whom to draw inspiration.

From the playlist : Manifesto for Interventionist Media - because Art is a Hammer

Manifesto Point # 1: The original project idea and goals come from the community partner. Kanehsatake 270 Years of Resistance is arguably Alanis Obomsawin's most important film, documenting the military 1990 siege of a Mohawk reserve near Oka, Quebec, and its causes. I chose this film here because the celebrated Abenaki filmmaker told me recently: "For me a real documentary is when you are really listening to somebody. They are the ones that tell you what the story is. Not you." Alanis said these words in the short the film I made about her, called Dream Magic (2008). I actually first saw Alanis in person behind the barricades at the Oka Crisis, back in 1990. She was there with her camera, and with army helicopters and madness swirling all around, she was an apparition of hope. I was a student journalist, furious with the disparity unfolding between the reality I saw before me, and the mainstream media's skewed interpretations of it. But because of Alanis, I was also witnessing the power of documentary firsthand. It is Alanis who first showed me almost two decades ago how collaborative the process can — and should — be. And from whom to draw inspiration.

— Katerina Cizek

From the playlist : Alanis Obomsawin Retrospective

I was in my car when the shooting occurred, on my way to another film shoot. I changed directions right away. I was working on something else that I completely dropped and raced to capture the stand-off on film. People outside of Canada were shocked when they saw this movie. They couldn't imagine that something like this was taking place here. The only negative reaction came when the film was released in French in Quebec.

— Alanis Obomsawin