Arts·Keep Calm+Decolonize

Keep Calm and Decolonize: Buffy Sainte-Marie's call for Canada to 'imagine new ways forward'

Curator Jesse Wente took these words as “marching orders from the iconic activist and artist” and curated a series of powerful short films for CBC Arts.

Curator Jesse Wente took these words as 'marching orders from the iconic activist and artist'

One year ago, live from AGO Creative Minds, legendary musician Buffy Sainte-Marie was asked about what she thought about Canada 150. Her response: "Stay calm and decolonize." The Massey Hall audience burst into applause and cheers.

Broadcaster, curator, producer and public speaker Jesse Wente took these words as "marching orders from the iconic activist and artist" and with CBC Arts curated a series of powerful short films.

I use the phrase 'stay calm and decolonize' as a call to communicate what you think, create what nobody thought was possible and to distribute new ways of thinking and doing things.- Buffy Sainte-Marie

Five of Canada's most distinguished filmmakers have responded to Sainte-Marie's call, offering an alternative vision for the future.

In an essay on the series, Wente reflects on the goal of the series and the importance of the decolonization project: "Canada 150 reminds us that this is our shared history now. Calls to decolonize need to extend to all who now call Turtle Island home, because while the urgency of decolonization is certainly acute for First Nations, Métis and Inuit, it is a process in which all can participate — for the results will affect all of us, just as the process of colonization here has left its mark on everyone and everything being celebrated this year."

You're about to watch five short films from some of Canada's most distinguished filmmakers. Some of their stories might make you laugh and some might make you angry, but hopefully they'll all inspire you to imagine new ways forward.- Buffy Sainte-Marie

Watch all five films now, and remember: keep calm and decolonize.

"Flood" by Amanda Strong"

What would it take to overcome colonial history? This meditative short film looks for answers.

An act of art and resistance, 'Flood' will leave you overwhelmed and gasping for more.- Jesse Wente

"Walking is Medicine" by Alanis Obomsawin

The legendary director's 51st film in 50 years of filmmaking explores the idea of walking as activism and as a symbol of decolonization.

Obomsawin takes just more than five minutes to blast us with wisdom and resistance.- Jesse Wente

"Marco's Oriental Noodles" by Howie Shia

Take a trip to 2037 Saskatchewan for the world's first psychedelic polydimensional comfort food.

When the colonizer no longer sees himself in his colony, can decolonization begin — or is it complete?- Jesse Wente

"Pink:Diss" by John Greyson

Can you decolonize a colour? What about punctuation?

Five minutes of weird and wonderful, confronting not just the illusion of colonial gender norms but the language rules used to express them.- Jesse Wente

"Brave Overseas" by Yung Chang

What does your name mean? Filmmaker Yung Chang bridges the worlds behind his two names.

Brave Overseas is a compact masterpiece by one of Canada's most ingenious directors.- Jesse Wente

From shadow puppets to documentary, Keep Calm and Decolonize explores what a "decolonized" Canada might look like, imagining a world no longer bound by the structures you know, where the circle of voices is larger.