By: Eugene Boulanger
A few weeks ago, I went to a fireside chat with Alanis Obomsawin at St. John’s College on the University of British Columbia campus.
The first time I’d ever heard of Alanis was last fall during the Vancouver Indigenous Media Arts Festival, because the festival was screening a selection of films around the subject of decolonization. We watched Kanehsatake 270 Years Of Resistance, which is a documentary about the Oka Crisis of 1990 in which a land dispute between a group of Mohawk people and the town of Oka, Quebec, Canada, turned into an armed standoff, and became the first well-publicized violent conflict between First Nations and the Canadian government in the late 20th century.
After further research about the director of the film, I learned that she’s both a recipient and an officer of the Order of Canada, a recipient of the Governor General’s Award, and is the subject of the first-ever book on an Indigenous film makers, Alanis Obomsawin: The Vision of A Native Filmmaker by Randolph Lewis. In the last 43 years, she’s produced 37 documentaries with the National Film Board, and when I had the chance to interview her, she revealed to me that she’s still producing and directing films to this day.
Upon first impression, I was charmed by her vibrant sense of humor and her brilliant smile. I sat around a circle with twelve or fifteen other people, all of us hanging off of every word of her stories about her mother and about her latest projects. It was only near the end of the evening that it occurred to me, ‘This woman has seen so many things change. I must ask her to speak to that.’
I hope you enjoy the highlights from our conversation. In the following highlights, we spoke about how she became a filmmaker, what has changed since the time she started producing, and a few of her insights as to how we can all work together to make Canada a more welcoming and inclusive place for all people.
Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below the clip. We encourage you to provide feedback on Twitter as well, by using #vandialogues. Thank you for listening – mahsi cho.