Indigenous

National Film Board 'redefining' its relationship with Indigenous Peoples

The National Film Board says it is "redefining" its relationship with Indigenous people by hiring more Indigenous staff and investing more in Indigenous works.

National organization launches 3-year plan to boost Indigenous hiring and film investment

Abenaki filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin, who has worked with the NFB for over five decades. (Scott Stevens/National Film Board)

The National Film Board says it is "redefining" its relationship with Indigenous people by hiring more Indigenous staff and investing more in Indigenous works.

As part of a three-year plan titled Redefining the NFB's Relationship with Indigenous Peoples, launched on Tuesday, the organization will provide all of its staff with cross-cultural training, increase its number of Indigenous employees from two to 16 by the year 2025, and commit to ensuring 15 per cent of production spending goes toward Indigenous content.

"I'm so happy," said renowned Abenaki filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin. "It's going to be easier for a lot of filmmakers, and the door will be open to even more people."

'360 approach'

NFB chairperson Claude Joli-Coeur said the organization has worked with Indigenous Peoples for years. For some, like Obomsawin, it's been a 50-year-long relationship.

"However, we were doing things in various branches of the organization. Now it's really a 360 [degree] approach," said Joli-Coeur. "We are transforming our organization."

Joli-Coeur said the three-year strategy will have an impact on all aspects of the NFB, from staffing to production and what's available to the Canadian public — which he says is vital to reconciliation, a concept that drove the plan.

"It's timely," Joli-Coeur said, "it's going to mean more products available, more screenings, more films online and more ways to engage and understand the perspectives of Indigenous Peoples."

The NFB will use its existing relationships with schools and other institutions to provide material that can be used as educational resources, Joli-Coeur said. It's something the NFB says is a response to what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has included in the 94 "calls to action" listed in its final report.

"Education must remedy the gaps in historical knowledge that perpetuate ignorance and racism," the report reads in part.

'Stories that must be told'

​Obomsawin, who directed her first NFB film, Christmas at Moose Factory, in 1971, said the new investment will help foster the burgeoning Indigenous film industry. 

It's an industry that she's seen only grow over the years and one she thinks is now an even more viable career option for young Indigenous people.

"I travel a lot across the country and I meet young people and they all want to make films," she said. 

"It's wonderful because there's a lot of stories that must be told."

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