Acclaimed Métis filmmaker Gil Cardinal dead at 65

Award-winning Métis filmmaker and writer Gil Cardinal has died at age 65.

'The world lost an amazing storyteller,' former CBC anchor Carla Robinson writes

Gil Cardinal (right) detailed the search for his birth family in the 1987 documentary Foster Child. (National Film Board)

Gil Cardinal, an acclaimed Métis filmmaker, director and writer, has died at age 65.

"The world lost an amazing storyteller," wrote former CBC anchor Carla Robinson. "May he rest peacefully with his ancestors."

Robinson narrated one of Cardinal's last films, the feature-length National Film Board (NFB) documentary Totem: The Return of the G'psgolox Pole, which was screened at the 2003 Toronto International Film Festival.

Cardinal had a long relationship with the NFB that started in 1970, producing several documentaries about contemporary indigenous life, including Foster Child, which detailed the search for his birth family and for which he won a Gemini in 1988.

Cardinal directed several dramas for the CBC, including the miniseries Big Bear in 1998, which garnered a Gemini nomination, and Indian Summer: The Oka Crisis in 2006.

Cardinal also directed numerous episodes of the award-winning CBC television series North of 60, where he worked with Cree writer Jordan Wheeler.

"I'll remember him as a kind, gentle soul," Wheeler said. "He always wanted to do the work justice. He never brought his ego to the table, which is rare."

Although not among the earliest generation of indigenous filmmakers, Cardinal was probably one of the first to direct mainstream, big-budget productions in Canada, Wheeler said.

"Gil was among the first wave of Indigenous filmmakers to reach worldwide audiences," said Jesse Wente, critic and director of film programs at TIFF Bell Lightbox.

"His devotion to truth and storytelling advanced indigenous cinema by laying the path for future generations to follow."

Cardinal died in Edmonton, the same city in which he was born in 1950. As news of Cardinal's passing spread, many paid tribute on social media.