This documentary/mockumentry examines how white culture has tried to document the ‘other’ through lack of understanding and cross-cultural exchange. It does this by reversing the traditional roles of subject and documenter – an Inuit community tries to understand white culture by using the same methods that western documenters used on them to falsely represent their cultures.
To me, by re-appropriating the methods of settler culture, this film strongly comments on how traditional usages of media have served to subjugate and misrepresent Indigenous people and communities.
Below are links and descriptions of the four featured films:
Sisters & Brothers by Kent Monkman is a film that juxtaposes archived images of bison herds with images of residential school survivors. The film makes connections to the extermination of the bison population with the genocidal practices of white settlers.
This is a large study by ImagineNative Film and Media Arts Festival that examines Aboriginal film production in Canada. This study makes the case that First Nations’ stories represent a huge untapped resource in Canada. Canada’s film industry has not yet fully explored the stories of indigenous peoples. Not only are these stories important to our collective identity as Canadians, but they also enormous commercial potential.
This site provides the history of Aboriginal Voice, which is a program that saw Aboriginal films be created by Aboriginal people. The rationale behind the program is summed up in a 1972 letter:
“There was a strong feeling among the filmmakers at the NFB that the Board had been making too many films “about” the Indian, all from the white man’s viewpoint. What would be the difference if Indians started making films themselves?” [Letter from George Stoney, executive producer, Challenge for Change, January 3, 1972]
The site includes six NFB films made by First Nations peoples. The films explore contemporary social and political issues from across Canada, including a film about Haisla people reclaiming a stolen artefact and a film documenting the confrontation between First Nations fishermen and the federal government in Burnt Church, New Brunswick.
For National Aboriginal Day, the CBC is hosting a variety of Aboriginal television programming, much of which is hosted at the following link: CBC – National Aboriginal Day
One program I viewed this evening was a documentary called “Trick or Treaty?” (link to the NFB), made in 2014 by Alanis Obomsawin, which discusses Treaty No. 9 – signed over a century ago under false pretences – perhaps especially because of the manipulation of oral information. The documentary emphasizes that the government manipulated what was said to the Chiefs who signed the treaty, who would have had a very different understanding of the magnitude of what was orally agreed upon, in order to gain their signature. It’s an interesting film that lays bare the exploitive actions taken by Canada to have this treaty agreed to and the actions that have been taken by Indigenous groups (and non-Indigenous, e.g. as a workshop led by a white educator is woven throughout the film) against it, especially in recent years.