National Indigenous History Month
June is National Indigenous History Month and is the perfect time to reflect upon the history, heritage, diverse cultures, and outstanding achievements of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people. Whether you’re watching on National Indigenous Peoples Day — June 21st — or any time throughout the month, these films are sure to spark discussion in your classroom.
ANGRY INUK (85 min)
2016. Director: Alethea Arnaquq-Baril (Inuk). Writer: Alethea Arnaquq-Baril (Inuk).
We all know about the terrible “brutality” of the arctic seal hunt — or do we? Turns out there’s more to this story: families that need to be fed, a hunting practice that began centuries ago and a tradition central to the economy and food security of Inuit communities in the Canadian Arctic. Angry Inuk is a story that’s over 4,000 years old. The seal hunt is not exactly a laughing matter, but humour and technical savvy go a long way to debunk certain claims. Wryly tackling both misinformation and aggressive appeals to emotion, Inuk filmmaker Arnaquq-Baril equips herself and her community with the powers of social media — and yes, #sealfies — to reframe a controversial topic as a cultural issue in this 2016 Audience Award-winning Hot Docs hit.
ATANARJUAT: THE FAST RUNNER (161 min)
2001. Director: Zacharias Kunuk (Inuk). Writer: Paul Apak Angilirq (Inuk)
Based on an ancient Inuit legend, Atanarjuat is an epic tale of love, betrayal and revenge. The beautiful Atuat (Ivalu) has been promised to the short-fused Oki (Arnatsiaq), the son of the tribe’s leader. However, she loves the good-natured Atanarjuat (Ungalaaq), a fast runner and excellent hunter. When Atanarjuat is forced to battle the jealous Oki for Atuat’s hand, the events that follow determine not only his fate, but that of his people.
EMPIRE OF DIRT (99 min)
2013. Director: Peter Stebbings. Writer: Shannon Masters (Cree)
When single mom Lena (Gee) realizes that her daughter (Eyre) is in danger of succumbing to the same addiction issues she herself faced, she decides to take her daughter and leave the city to return home to her estranged mother (Podemski) in the rural Indigenous community of her youth. The homecoming forces Lena to deal with her past and raises issues that test all three generations of this family of spirited women. Powerful and inspiring, Empire of Dirt was nominated for five Canadian Screen Awards, including Best Picture.
KANEHSATAKE: 270 YEARS OF RESISTANCE (119 min)
1993. Director: Alanis Obomsawin (Abenaki). Writer: Alanis Obomsawin
The Oka Crisis in July of 1990 was a critical moment in Canadian history and a turning point for Indigenous affairs. That summer, the small Quebec community was thrust into the international spotlight when members of the Mohawk Nation blocked access to reserve lands that the predominantly white community of Oka wanted to develop into a golf course.
KAYAK TO KLEMTU (90 min)
2018. Director & Writer: Zoe Leigh Hopkins (Heiltsuk/Mohawk)
When a prominent Kitasoo/Xai’Xais activist passes away, his 14-year-old niece Ella (Blaney) embarks on a kayak journey to take his ashes home to Klemtu. It’s a race against the clock as Ella tries to make it back in time to give a speech protesting a proposed pipeline that would cross Indigenous land.
NÎPAWISTAMÂSOWIN: WE WILL STAND UP (89 min)
2019. Director & Writer: Tasha Hubbard (Cree).
On August 9, 2016, a 22 year old Cree man named Colten Boushie was killed by a gunshot to the back of his head after entering a rural farm property in Saskatchewan with his friends.
When an all-white jury acquitted the white farmer of all charges, the case received international attention and sent Colten’s family and community on a quest to fix the Canadian justice system.
OUR PEOPLE WILL BE HEALED (97 min)
2017. Director & Writer: Alanis Obomsawin (Abenaki).
Master documentarian Alanis Obomsawin’s 50th film reveals how a Cree community in Manitoba has been enriched through the power of education. The students at a local school for the Norway House Cree Nation discuss their aspirations for the future and reflect on how they are feeling more hopeful than previous generations.
By discussing the effects of intergenerational trauma, substance abuse and many other issues facing Indigenous communities, the students are able to undergo a process of collective healing that shows that the strength of the community comes from the people within it.
RISE (Part One: 45 min, Part Two: 44 min)
2017. Director: Michelle Latimer. With: Sarain Carson-Fox (Anishnaabe).
In these two episodes, the people of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation of South Dakota fight to stop the Dakota Access pipeline being built on their ancestral homeland. This absorbing account of the protest and occupation, which eventually grew to 10,000 people, is filled with history lessons and discussions of reservation life.
RUSTIC ORACLE (101 min)
2019. Director & Writer: Sonia Bonspille Boileau (Mohawk).
A moving portrait of a family in crisis, Rustic Oracle tells the story of eight-year-old Ivy (Delisle) who joins her mother Susan (Moore) in a desperate race against time to search for her older sister who’s gone missing from their Mohawk community. While their journey to find answers is one that no family should go through, their shared hope helps mother and daughter come together in love amidst difficult circumstances.
NOW IS THE TIME (16 min)
2019. Director: Christopher Auchter
In August 1969 the community of Old Massett gathered to raise a totem pole carved by Robert Davidson. It was the first new totem pole raised in Haida Gwaii in almost a century. Over 50 years later, Haida filmmaker Christopher Auchter remixes archival footage, new interviews and animation to reflect back on this important occasion.
June also marks Pride Month, celebrating LGBTQIA+ Pride across the country. It was in June of 1969 when the Stonewall Riots occurred in New York, marking an important milestone in the fight for gay rights. We recommend the following films for Canadian stories of love and acceptance:
C.R.A.Z.Y. (127 min)
2005. Director: Jean-Marc Vallée. Writer: François Boulay, Jean-Marc Vallée
A box-office blockbuster and winner of a whopping 11 Genies, C.R.A.Z.Y. is an infectious, entertaining coming-of-age drama. When Zac Beaulieu (Grondin) is born on December 25, 1960, it becomes clear that he is different from his four brothers. He vies desperately for attention and acceptance from both of his parents, but in particular, from his loving and old-fashioned father, Gervais (Côté). The film follows Zac over the next 30 years as life takes him on an epic journey to come to grips with his sexual identity. Buoyed by a vibrant soundtrack, C.R.A.Z.Y. boasts countless moments of true movie magic. It is at once a crowd-pleaser and a poignant and personal auteur film.
JEUNE JULIETTE (94 min)
2019. Director & Writer: Anne Émond.
Adolescence is a tough time for a lot of people. Take Juliette (Jamieson): On top of feeling misunderstood by her peers and her own family, she has to deal with her dad’s new bohemian girlfriend, her first crush on her older brother’s friend, and an increasing awareness that people see her as overweight. Good thing she has her best friend (Désilets), and a precocious young boy (Beaudet) whom she babysits to help her sort through the tumult of coming of age.
MAMAN EST CHEZ LE COIFFEUR (97 min)
2008. Director: Léa Pool. Writer: Isabelle Hébert
It’s summer, 1966. The sun is shining, and the world is full of possibilities. But for 15-year-old Élise (Fortier), there’s trouble brewing under the surface of her happy home life.
When a shocking discovery causes her mother to leave the family, everyone is stunned. Amidst the chaos, Élise decides that it’s up to her to step up and fix things. While her dad and two brothers retreat into their own inner worlds, Élise remains undeterred. As she tries to keep her family’s troubles a secret, Élise discovers that nobody around her has a life as perfect as it seems at first glance. It’s not exactly what Élise bargained for, but it’ll be a summer unlike any other.
MAMBO ITALIANO (92 min)
2003. Director: Émile Gaudreault. Writer: Steve Galluccio, Émile Gaudreault
A rollicking comedy that takes place in a colourful version of Montreal’s Petite Italie, Mambo Italiano is the tale of Angelo Barbarini (Kirby), the son of Italian-Canadian immigrants, who has been teased all his life for being “different.”
At nearly 30 years of age, Angelo shocks his parents — and the entire community — by brazenly defying tradition: He moves out to live his own life despite not being married. Free at last, he falls in love with his long-lost childhood chum, Nino, and the two move in together. They try to keep their sexuality a secret, while their families worry, suspect and scheme to set them up with nice Italian girls. It’s not easy being Italian and gay, and when the pressures of his double life begin to overwhelm Angelo, his reactions set off an explosively funny chain of surprise revelations, comic reversals and unexpected outcomes.
MY PRAIRIE HOME (76 min)
2013. Director & Writer: Chelsea McMullan.
Set against the backdrop of the Canadian Prairies, Alberta-born singer/songwriter Rae Spoon takes us on the musical journey of a trans person’s coming of age in an evangelical household.
WEIRDOS (84 min)
2016. Director: Bruce McDonald. Writer: Daniel MacIvor
In a small Nova Scotia town in 1976, 15-year-old Kit (Authors) and his girlfriend Alice (Stone) decide to shake up their go-nowhere existence by hitchhiking to the big city of Sydney, to visit Kit’s glamorous but unstable mother (Parker). It becomes a journey of self discovery that opens them up to new possibilities for their futures. Beautifully shot and featuring a killer ’70s soundtrack, the new film from Canadian master Bruce McDonald shakes up the coming-of-age road-movie concept with wit, charm and a lot of heart.
I AM SKYLAR (15 min)
2019. Director: Rachel Bower
An inspiring and honest look at the challenges facing a transgender teenager and how the love of her family and community allowed her to embrace her true self.
HANDSOME AND MAJESTIC (12 min)
2015. Director: Nathan Drillot, Jeff Petry
Milan’s a regular teen: He likes sports, lasagna and hanging with friends. But unlike other boys his age, he faces the struggles that come with a transgender identity. With his family supporting him, his inspirational story helps educate and inspire those around him.
THE LITTLE DEPUTY (9 min)
2015. Director: Trevor Anderson
Years after dressing up as a deputy sheriff for a western-style photo with his father, Anderson explores issues of gender identity when he tries to recreate the photo as it always should have been.
A WORLD OF OUR OWN (9 min)
2018. Director: Morningstar Derosier
In a twist on futuristic sci-fi, a young woman becomes infatuated with a woman who removes a ubiquitous computer implant that has replaced most forms of communication.