The true story of a northern Ontario First Nations elder is on its way to the Sundance Film Festival this week in Utah. 

The 13-minute short The Grandfather Drum was selected for the "Animation Spotlight" category in the premiere annual film event founded by American actor Robert Redford. 

"As the balance of the world turns upside down for the Anishinabek people, the elder Naamowin builds a healing drum to save his grandson and his people," said the plot summary on the Sundance web site

Dave Clement, a professor of digital cinematography at Canadore College in North Bay, worked as an associate producer on the film. 

Dave Clement

Dave Clement, professor of digital cinematography at Canadore College, was the associate producer for The Grandfather Drum. (

He said his partner at Thunderstone Pictures, Michelle Derosier, came upon the story of a magical drum a number of years ago while employed as a social worker in a northern community. 

Michelle Derosier

Indigenous film maker, writer, executive producer and director of The Grandfather Drum, Michelle Derosier. (Dave Clement/Thunderstone Pictures Inc.)

"It's an analog for many northern communities," he said. "It's pretty much about colonialism in northern Ontario, and what it looked like for people, and how it affected communities — because the drum is the heartbeat of a community, and if you take that away ... what happens to the people?" 

Clement said the short took about four years to make, and was "the first 100 per cent northern production."

"Everybody that worked on it on every level — from sound design to illustration to animation to post-production — was from northern Ontario, so we're pretty proud of that."

The Grandfather Drum - Official Trailer from Thunderstone Pictures on Vimeo.