TIFF has organized several events to observe, recognize, and celebrate the work of Indigenous filmmakers for National Indigenous History Month.
On Display Until June 26
Waking the Giants
TIFF and partner Bell are ‘activating’ the TIFF Bell Lightbox public spaces with Waking the Giants, a free pop-up art display by Indigenous artist Sean Couchie, a member of the Nipissing Band of Ojibways. Waking the Giants features new paintings that build awareness and understanding of the ongoing harm of settler colonialism, while honouring giants from Sean’s own life and community.
Aspect Ratio: Indigenous Actors Beyond the Expected
Since the birth of American Cinema, audiences have been ingrained to expect Native American and Native Hawaiian characters on screen to explain or perform various interpretations of Indigeneity. The aim of this series is to explore what it means for Indigenous American and Pacific Islander performers to be in these roles, their significance, and the possibilities they propose. Programmed by Adam Piron, Sundance Institute’s Indigenous Program Director, the films in the series are A Knight’s Tale, My Blueberry Nights, Certain Women, and Heat.
The video below can give you a more in-depth look the history of Indigenous actors in film, and learn more about the choice of films in this program.
June 21, 7pm
Adam Beach on Smoke Signals
For this Books on Film event, award-winning actor Adam Beach (Arctic Air, Flags of Our Fathers) recounts the journey of adapting Smoke Signals — which helped bring the emerging Indigenous New Wave into the North American mainstream — from Sherman Alexie’s short-story collection The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.
A good friend of mine showed me this film back in the 1990s when I was a teenager. It is a road-trip movie of sorts. The story revolves around two young men – Victor (Adam Beach) and Thomas Builds-the-Fire (Evan Adams)- en route to Arizona to settle some family business. Through the course of this journey they learn encounter many people, learn many lessons, learn about relationships, especially that between father and son. A film that has stayed with me since that first screening over 20 years ago.
Special Screening – One Night Only, June 21
Wochiigii lo: End of the Peace
Made over five years by Haida filmmaker Heather Hatch, this impassioned documentary captures the long struggle by members of the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations against the BC government over a mega-dam project that could devastate the Peace River Valley. The fact that many experts consider the Site C dam to be both unneeded and a likely money-loser for the province is one of many cruel ironies Hatch uncovers in her film, which is equally powerful as a blistering exposé and an inspirational tribute to these lands’ defenders.
June 22, 8pm
TIFF Next Wave Presents: Rhymes for Young Ghouls
Guided by the spirits of her departed mother and brother, Aila, a Mi’kmaw teenager (Devery Jacobs) plots revenge against a sadistic Indian agent in this fierce debut feature from First Nations director Jeff Barnaby (Blood Quantum). A member of the TIFF Next Wave Committee will introduce this special screening, which is free for TIFF Members and Under-25 Free Pass holders.
I recall seeing this award-winning film when it premiered at TIFF in 2013 and hit all the notes for me. It tackles the history of abuse of First Nations people specifically residential school children by government agents. It is a history that many do not want to face but must be discussed. It is my opionion that over the course of the film, we come to understand the necessity of Aila’s revenge. Highly recommend.
Opening June 24 on digital TIFF Bell Lightbox
Slash/Back | Dir. Nyla Innuksuk
In a remote Arctic community, a group of Inuit girls fight off an alien invasion, all while trying to make it to the coolest party in town.
Also Available on digital TIFF Bell Lightbox
In honour of National Indigenous History Month, this program showcases feature films by Indigenous creators around the world. The program includes Beans, The Book of the Sea, maɬni – towards the ocean, towards the shore, Night Raiders, SG̲aawaay Ḵ’uuna (Edge of the Knife), Val, Wildhood.
I have yet to see all films from this program, but I will say that Beans, Night Raiders and Wildhood are all a definite must-see. They are all different stories, however, they are all quite remarkable in their own right.
For information on each of the above initiatives, screening, and to obtain tickest, please visit tiff.net.