New age of Indigenous cinema
The National Film Board of Canada announces new access to Indigenous content
By Anna Junker, News Editor
As of March 22, new Indigenous film content is available for free use across Canada.
The National Film Board of Canada has launched Indigenous Cinema (#NFBIndigenous), which will offer free streaming of more than 200 new and classic titles from its collection of films by Indigenous directors — including 20 new and recently added films.
Indigenous Cinema has been developed as part of the NFB’s three year Indigenous Action Plan to transform the relationship with Indigenous creators and audiences.
The commitments in the three year plan respond to the work and recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) along with Indigenous creators’ concerns on systemic inequities in the current Canadian production landscape.
The NFB has produced content in Canada about Indigenous lives and experiences since the early 1940s, however, for the first three decades of the film board’s existence, Indigenous people were restricted to just being subjects of films directed by non-Indigenous people.
It wasn’t until Challenge for Change in the late 1960s created a new participatory approach where Indigenous people began putting their own stories on film.
Since 1968, the NFB has been producing works by First Nations, Métis and Inuit directors — a total of more than 280 titles by Indigenous filmmakers.
The Indigenous Action Plan was developed with an Indigenous advisory group and contains 33 commitments grouped under four main areas: Institutional Transformation, Industry Leadership, Production and Distribution, Collection Management and Education.
Highlights of the plan include a commitment to achieving representational workplace equity in the NFB by 2025, cultural-competency training for staff, as well as an immediate commitment to ensuring 15 per cent of production is spent on Indigenous-directed projects.
“The NFB acknowledges its enormous debt to the first generation of Indigenous filmmakers at the NFB, first and foremost Alanis Obomsawin,” said Claude Joli-Coeur, government film commissioner and chairperson of the NFB of the Indigenous Action Plan.
“Alanis joined the NFB in 1967 and fought against an often hostile environment to create an unparalleled body of work that has fundamentally recast understandings of Indigenous realities and relationships with settler society. The struggles of Alanis and others to claim a space for Indigenous voices within the NFB, on Canadian screens and within the broader Canadian production industry constitute the foundations for the commitments we are making today.”
The new Indigenous Cinema website has Indigenous content spanning both short and feature length films produced from 1968 to 2017. The collection includes work from artists, writers and filmmakers such as Mike Kanentakeron Mitchell, Alanis Obomsawin, Gil Cardinal, Tasha Hubbard, Elisapie Isaac, Bonnie Ammaaq, Katherena Vermette and Erica MacPherson.
It’s also made so it’s incredibly easy to find Indigenous stories and perspectives which are searchable by subject, director’s name or Indigenous people or nation along with curated and contextualized playlists for different ages and filmmaker biographies.
Many of the films in the collection are also being screened in communities across Canada as part of the #Aabiziingwashi (#WideAwake) Indigenous cinema screening series. The initiative launched in April 2017, with 700 community screenings in every province and territory.