Dene/Métis filmmaker inspired by 1930s Indigenous activists

Marie Clements said she first heard of the Native Voice — a newspaper formed by Indigenous activist groups on Canada’s west coast in the 1930s — while researching history for a art project.

The Road Forward, a musical documentary, charts a course through early days of Indigenous activism

The Road Forward is a musical documentary by filmmaker Marie Clements and focuses on the rise of Indigenous nationalism in the 1930s. (The Road Forward- mediaspace.nfb.ca)

Marie Clements, a Dene/Métis filmmaker, said she first heard of the Native Voice —  a newspaper formed by Indigenous activist groups on Canada's west coast in the thirties — while researching history for a commission during the Vancouver Olympics.

The Native Voice newspaper becomes a driving force in the narrative of The Road Forward. It has earned an official selection for Hot Docs in Toronto where it premieres on April 30.

The film also features several well-known Indigenous actors and musicians including: Murray Porter, Michelle St. John, Cheri Maracle, Elizabeth Kreisberg, Wayne Lavallee, Evan Adams and Ronnie Dean Harris.

"I came across the Native Voice and was just kind of opened up to these 80 years of Aboriginal history that looked at all the movements from the '30s to the present I'd never seen before," Clements said.

Filmmaker Marie Clements said discovering the history of Indigenous activism in the 1930s was like being caught in a 'beautiful whirlwind.' (The Road Forward - mediaspace.nfb.ca)

The Road Forward documents the rise of Indigenous nationalism — a movement Clements said connects with First Nations activism today.

"I was overwhelmed by what I didn't know," Clements said. "I didn't know these giants, I didn't know these activists, and this newspaper."

"I had maybe read about these movements in history class, but to have it come from a perspective that felt like you were on the ground, right there," Clements said. "It was really inspiring. It was like I got caught in this beautiful whirlwind."

Clements said it's rare to come across Canadian history written through an Indigenous perspective.

"There's something in us that responds to hearing our own people speak. And hearing a perspective we can understand because we're connected to it," she said.

Clements said she was also inspired by how progressive the activists' inclinations were, and how a community effort galvanized different perspectives into a common goal.

"To have a newspaper led by predominantly strong women was very rare ... they were way ahead of the game," she said.

The Road Forward will also open the DOXA film festival in Vancouver on May 4.