imagineNATIVE: a feast of a film fest

The imagineNATIVE film + media arts festival gets better and better, morphing easily in 2020 into a cyber affair with lots to click on. Two feature films make this year’s fest a feast for readers as well as media consumers.  Cree/ Métis director Loretta Todd co-wrote and directed Monkey Beach, a sensitive adaptation of Eden Robinson’s 2000 novel of the same name. It’s the story of Lisa Hill who has fled her Haisla village of Kitamaat for life in the big city of Vancouver and returns to undergo a healing process and come to terms with her personal past. What you need to know is that Lisa is gifted with the power to communicate with the dead. The script creaks a little, but performances by Grace Dove, Adam Beach, Glen Gould and especially Tina Lameman make up for such faults.

Thomas King wrote the book that Métis/Algonquin director actor Michelle Latimer, adapted for the screen, as Inconvenient Indian.  An NFB/90th Parallel co-production, already lauded with the People’s Choice Award at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, Inconvenient Indian is nothing short of brilliant. Latimer cast King in a starring position, as a movie-goer riding in the back of a Co-op cab. As King tells the story of Coyote and the duck feathers, his driver transforms into a grinning coyote. And so it goes, a riveting documentary that brings the undeniable truths of An Inconvenient Indian to the big screen.

The 21st imagineNATIVE festival presents work from 153 Indigenous artists from 13 countries and 97 Indigenous nations. In addition to 10 feature films, organizers have put together four short film programs, two guest-curated programs and one artist spotlight, on Cree video artist Thirza Cuthand with a screening of her video Thirza Cuthand is an Indian within the Meaning of the Indian Act.

This year’s winner of the August Schellenberg Award of Excellence is Squamish BC actor Lorne Cardinal, a well known thespian who performed in Schellenberg’s all-indigenous production of King Lear at the National Arts Centre. He’ll be presented with the award on Sunday, October 25, when all the other festival prizes are handed out.

In addition to the annual art crawl, imagineNATIVE sponsors exhibitions, industry talks, a pitch session and a keynote address from Tantoo Cardinal.

Here are some films that make this year’s festival particularly appealing. Shadow of Dumont is a feature film from Métis director Trevor Cameron, who sets out from Toronto to look for his roots in the story of Gabriel Dumont, leader of the 1885 Métis uprising in Saskatchewan. Brother, I Cry, written and directed by Jessie Anthony, a Haudenosaunee woman born and raised on the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, looks at how cultural practices play a part in healing those suffering the pain of addiction. A Canadian premiere, Māori/Pasifika director/producer Kiel McNaughton’s The Legend of Baron To’a is the story of a young Tongan man dealing with the legacy of a superstar father who was a wrestler. Atua is a New Zealand film that imagines Atua Kahu, the last man standing in a world destroyed by disease. The film, directed and written by Brown Bitty Muaupoko, Ngai Tara, Ngati Raukawa and Ngati Huia, came out of NATIVE Slam, an international collaborative event that gives indigenous directors 72 hours to make a movie together.

ImagineNATIVE runs through Sunday October 25. For information on tickets, free events and daily schedules, go to https://festival.imaginenative.org/in2020

Photo: Still from Inconvenient Indian

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