Programmed by Charlène Dinhut
For over forty years, Alanis Obomsawin, one of Canada’s most famous documentary makers and a member of the Abenaki tribe, has been portraying the lives of North America’s indigenous peoples. After devoting her work to the voices of others, here she returns to the village of Odanak in southern Quebec where she grew up, and focuses on the history of her own ancestors. By recording the elders’ tales and talking with the community’s leading figures, she paints a very radiant portrait of the Wabanaki Nation.
Before making films to advance the struggle of North America’s First Nations, Alanis Obomsawin was a professional singer and storyteller. It’s her voice that drives the narrative here, weaving its way through a meticulous intermingling of footage and interviews. The two sides of her work come together in this film – she celebrates Wabanaki culture whilst using cinema as an impressive tool for social justice. She describes discriminations and the recent legal battles waged by, among others, indigenous women’s groups to abolish laws that would insidiously lead to the nation’s extinction. This is an impeccable, militant film and a dazzling commemoration, not without a certain lyricism. And without a doubt, it helps us imagine alternatives to capitalist imaginaries.
Programmer and curator
Alanis Obomsawin is a member of the Wabanaki nation and one of Canada’s most eminent documentary makers. She started out as a singer, author and storyteller before turning to cinema in 1967. For over forty years, she has been making movies for the National Film Board of Canada that describe the First Nations’ lives and concerns, giving voice to members of different indigenous communities. She has written around fifty documentaries, many of them awarded international prizes, most notably "Kanehsatake: 270 years of resistance" (1993), a feature film about the 1990 Mohawk uprising in Kanehsatake and Oka. In 2002, the multidisciplinary artist, writer and performer was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, a distinction recognising her dedication to the wellbeing of her people and the preservation of indigenous heritage. Hot Docs devoted a retrospective to her work, as did New York’s MoMA. Her cult album "Bush Lady" was re-released in 2018 on the independent label Constellation Records.