Beyond 150 Years: An Acknowledgement of Cinematic Territory

March 13, 2017

In advance of National Canadian Film Day 150 (NCFD 150), REEL CANADA was in Vancouver for three impactful days to honour, enjoy and celebrate Indigenous filmmakers in Canada. From March 5th to 7th, REEL CANADA presented Beyond 150 Years: An Acknowledgement of Cinematic Territory (Beyond 150 Years), in partnership with Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF), the National Film Board of Canada and TD Bank.

Beyond 150 Years was designed to acknowledge the complicated nature of marking Canada’s sesquicentennial. Part of celebrating what Canada has become over the past 150 years means facing painful truths about our history, acknowledging whose land Canada is on, and asking ourselves how we can do better going forward. Beyond 150 Years shone a spotlight on the importance and impact of Indigenous cinema. REEL CANADA was honoured to showcase, with utmost respect, some of the most celebrated Indigenous filmmakers in the REEL CANADA catalogue, filmmakers whose works tell their own stories of Indigenous peoples and our shared history. Beyond 150 Years featured two days of film screenings, artist talks, and lectures, all free of charge and open to the public.

Beyond 150 Years kicked off on Sunday, March 5th, with a welcome reception with prolific artist and Beyond 150 Years host, Ronnie Dean Harris aka Ostwelve (Stō:lo/St’át’imc/Lil’wat/N’laka’pamux). A performer, multimedia-based artist and designer of the Beyond 150 Years logo, Harris hosted the reception and greeted guests. Squamish cultural leader Bob Baker gave the welcoming speech, followed by a performance from Spakwus Slolem (Eagle Song Dancers) and audio/visual works by featured artist Bracken Hanuse Corlett (Wuikinuxv/Klahoose). Denise Bolduc, Beyond 150 Years’ Creative Lead Producer and REEL CANADA’s Indigenous Programme Manager, acknowledged being on these territories as a guest and thanked Bob Baker, Spakwus Slolem, all of our partners and the team.

Monday and Tuesday offered high school and post-secondary students, as well as the Vancouver general public, unique opportunities to participate in film screenings and interactive discussions with filmmakers and artists. Documentarian Alethea Arnaquq-Baril (Inuk) was on hand for two packed screenings on Monday of her award-winning film, Angry Inuk, which explores issues of seal hunting, cultural prejudice, and food security in the North. Secondary students impressed the filmmaker with an engaged attitude and thoughtful questions, and that evening’s sold-out public screening ended with a standing ovation and a 40-minute Q&A that no one in the audience wanted to end!

Monday afternoon featured screenings of two evocative short films from filmmaker Lisa Jackson (Anishinaabe), Savage and Snare, followed by an artist talk with Jackson and academic Doreen Manuel (Secwepemc/Ktunuxa), the Program Coordinator of Capilano University’s Indigenous Independent Filmmaking Program. They spoke at length about the filmmaking process and the complicated relationships between personal and communal Indigenous histories and artistic representation. The nuanced, honest conversation brought rapt attention and a few tears from the audience in the theatre. Line-ups were long on both days to experience Jackson’s latest project, Highway of Tears, a visceral, ground-breaking virtual reality (VR) documentary about missing and murdered Indigenous women along British Columbia’s notorious Highway 16.

Tuesday began with a screening of the animated short film, Mia’, by award-winning filmmaker Amanda Strong (Michif). Immediately following was a screening of the documentary, Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance, by renowned filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin (Abenaki). This important film about Indigenous land claims is as relevant today as when it was released 24 years ago. In the afternoon, Strong and Obomsawin gave an artist talk led by media artist and ceremonial activist T’uy’t-tanat-Cease Wyss (Coast Salish). Strong’s most recent film, Four Faces of the Moon, was screened along with a montage of highlights from Obomsawin’s distinguished career. The two artists share a unique bond as two generations of Indigenous filmmakers: Obomsawin recently chose Strong as the emerging artist with whom to reward $50K in prize services after winning the Clyde Gilmour Technicolour Award last December. The two shared stories of their craft and the intersections of art, culture, and history, and spoke with an inspired crowd about the power of film, the importance of telling one’s stories, and issues facing Indigenous communities today.

Tuesday evening featured a screening of Inuk filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk’s celebrated 2001 film, Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, the first Canadian dramatic feature produced entirely in Inuktituk and named the best Canadian film of all time by the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in 2015. The film was preceded by an introductory talk about slow media and Indigenous time in Kunuk’s body of work by filmmaker and professor Gregory Coyes (Métis).

Beyond 150 Years afforded the opportunity for Canadians to shine a spotlight on Canada’s original inhabitants. These Indigenous filmmakers and artists are marking a legacy that goes far beyond 150 years. The stories they tell are ones of great loss, but also ones of resistance, cultural resilience, and hope. REEL CANADA would like to thank all of these storytellers and artists for their contributions to Canada’s cinema and their work as ambassadors for their peoples’ and our shared histories.

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