Filmmaker Caroline Monnet aims to show Indigenous people 'kicking ass on-screen'

Caroline Monnet had access to over 700 films in the National Film Board archives to draw from to create Mobilize — a collage film about Indigenous people in Canada. Using footage set in both rural and urban settings, she wanted to show how equipped Indigenous people are at adapting to different environments.

Monnet's film, Mobilize, is part of the Contemporary Native Arts Biennial in Montreal, QC.

Still from Caroline Monnet's film Mobilize, which is made up of clips from the National Film Board archives. (National Film Board)

Caroline Monnet had access to over 700 films in the National Film Board archives to draw from to create Mobilize — a collage film about Indigenous people in Canada. Using footage set in both rural and urban settings, she wanted to show how skilled Indigenous people are at adapting to different environments.

"What I wanted with the film was for people to be bombarded with images of Indigenous people kicking ass on-screen," said Monnet.

"You don't really understand what's happening to you but you feel energized by those images of Indigenous people doing something positive."

Monnet's film is part of a larger NFB installation called Souvenir, which enlisted three additional Indigenous filmmakers — Kent Monkman, Jeff Barnaby and Michelle Latimer — to also make collage films about Indigenous identity.

From rural to urban

Mobilize starts in a rural setting, with a man chopping wood, but transitions to scenes set in Montreal, where a man is working at a skyscraper construction site. 

"It's a bit of the story of my own family, traveling from more rural areas to the city," said Monnet.

"It's interesting for me to talk about natural landscapes and urban landscapes, it's something that I'm really familiar with — that duality is something that's really present in most of my work in general."

Set to a hypnotizing soundtrack by Inuit artist Tanya Tagaq, the most intriguing tension in the film is the use of a modern song to score a film made entirely from clips of vintage NFB films. This decision was intentional.

"It's interesting for me to use archives to talk about the future," said Monnet. "There's a tension there I was intrigued by."

Mobilize is currently on display at the McCord Museum in Montreal, as part of the Contemporary Native Art Biennial, which celebrates the work of Indigenous artists from across the country. The other three films from the installation Souvenir are also on display at the museum.

Culture Shift

The Contemporary Native Arts Biennial also boasts three pavilions across Montreal. Curator Michael Patten modeled the event after the Venice Biennial, creating three distinct pavilions, each with their own theme.

The Stewart Hall Art Gallery is the home of the North West Coast pavilion, which features Indigenous artists from Alaska and British Columbia. The Canadian Guild of Crafts is the Northern pavilion, and features work by Inuit artists from Nunavut, Quebec and Greenland. And Art Mûr is the central pavilion, which includes artwork by artists from across North America. 

The biennial runs until June 26, 2016, and features over 40 Indigenous artists, including KC Adams, Joi T. Arcand and Luke Parnell.