Toronto

TIFF tracking number of films made by Indigenous filmmakers for the 1st time

There are 13 films at the Toronto International Film festival this year directed by Indigenous filmmakers — something organizers are championing as they track statistics for the first time in an effort to monitor the diversity of TIFF’s programming.

Festival includes 13 films made by Indigenous filmmakers for 2019

Alanis Obomsawin's new film, Jordan River Anderson: The Messenger, is one of 13 films from Indigenous directors being screened at TIFF this year. (Jean-François Villeneuve)

There are 13 films at the Toronto International Film festival this year directed by Indigenous filmmakers — something organizers are championing as they track statistics for the first time in an effort to monitor the diversity of TIFF's programming.

Organizers said in a statement that TIFF is working to better understand the inclusiveness of its film programming.

"We support the calls by leaders in Indigenous screen storytelling for more films to be made, and for greater narrative sovereignty," said Cameron Bailey, co-head and artistic director, in a statement.

"We're inspired by this year's films that shine a light on Indigenous stories of the present and past, and we're excited to help bring these vital stories to global audiences."

Between 2008 and 2013, there were just three films made by Indigenous people at TIFF — so having that number jump to 13 is welcome news to filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin.

She is releasing her 53rd film, Jordan River Anderson: The Messenger at TIFF this year.

It tells the story of how a young boy's short life resulted in more Indigenous children today having health care equal to that enjoyed by the rest of Canadians.  

She told CBC News that there is a lot of opportunity for Indigenous filmmakers in Canada right now.

"There's wonderful programs everywhere," she said.

"It's a very exciting time, and a time where everything is possible."

But not everyone is so enamoured. Rhonda Lucy, the founder and artistic director of the Toronto Indigenous Filmmakers Collective, said Indigenous people still face barriers when it comes to filmmaking in Canada.

Rhonda Lucy is the artistic director and founder of Sun Raven Arts. (Michael Cole/CBC)

"It just seems like a pinhole through a floodgate. That gate can open. Open the gate," she said.

"We have such a performative aspect to our culture that is a lot of our culture."

Other films at the festival this year with Indigenous connections include Blood Quantum, which is from Mi'kmaq writer-director Jeff Barnaby.

The film tells the story of members of an isolated Mi'gmaq community who discover they are the only humans immune to a zombie plague.

There's also Zacharias Kunuk's One Day in the Life of Noah Piugattuk, which is being called a "powerful tale about colonialism and Inuit–settler relations."

For a full list of films, visit the festival's website.

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