If anyone belongs in the pantheon of socially and politically committed cineastes, it is Alanis Obomsawin. For more than forty years, she has made films revealing the effects of colonialist history and destructive government policy on indigenous Canadians, while simultaneously bringing to light the power of resistance and regeneration in First Nations communities and individuals across the country. As Steve Gravestock writes, “Her numerous documentaries comprise an alternative history of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples—markedly different from the official versions promulgated by governments and mainstream media, whose attitudes have ranged from neglect to racism.” Obomsawin is a member of the Abenaki Nation, whose traditional lands extended through a large part of New England, Quebec, and the Canadian Maritimes. Born in New Hampshire and raised in Quebec, Obomsawin began her career as a storyteller in the coffeehouses of Montreal, where she told traditional stories and sang songs in French, English, and Abenaki. Recruited by the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) to consult on films about Aboriginal subjects, she started making her own films there in 1971. Since then Obomsawin has mastered the tools and resources available at the NFB, applying her passionate voice and powerful vision to making history one film at a time.
We are privileged that Alanis Obomsawin will be at BAMPFA to present all three of her screenings. She will be joined in conversation by Joanne Barker, professor of American Indian Studies at San Francisco State University. Barker is the author of Native Acts: Law Recognition and Cultural Authenticity and editor of Sovereignty Matters: Locations of Contestation and Possibility in Indigenous Struggles for Self-Determination. She is Lenape (an enrolled member of the Delaware Tribe of Indians)
Kate MacKay, Associate Film Curator