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First Peoples Cinema Celebrated at TIFF Lightbox this Summer with Film Series, Free Exhibition and Special Guests

by NationTalk on May 28, 2012731 Views

Programme features largest and most wide-ranging First Peoples film series ever seen in North America; major gallery exhibition with work from Native artists; and guests including Academy Award®-nominated actor Graham Greene

Toronto — Noah Cowan, Artistic Director, TIFF Bell Lightbox, announced today details for a multifaceted exploration of First Peoples on film including First Peoples Cinema: 1500 Nations, One Tradition a major film retrospective, Home on Native Land, a free landmark gallery exhibition, as well as an international roster of special guests, all launching on June 21. First Peoples Cinema: 1500 Nations, One Tradition, a film series that traces a select history of Indigenous filmmaking from around the world, programmed by Jesse Wente (Ojibwe), Head of Film Programmes, TIFF, includes 27 features and over 30 shorts from First Peoples filmmakers from Canada, the USA, New Zealand, Australia, Samoa and the Philippines. Opening in conjunction with the film series is Home on Native Land, a free major gallery exhibition of new media work from celebrated Native Artists from Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand. The programme also features guest appearances by many First Peoples filmmakers, scholars and curators, including an on-stage discussion with Academy Award®-nominated actor Graham Greene (Dances With Wolves).First Peoples Cinema: 1500 Nations, One Tradition features key works from the four countries that share an interconnected film production story of First Peoples cinema: Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the first feature ever made in the Indigenous Palawan language of the Philippines, Busong (2011) directed by Aureaus Solito (Palawano) and the first feature film from Samoa, The Orator (2011), by Tusi Tamasese (Samoan). First Peoples Cinema: 1500 Nations, One Tradition is the largest and most wide-ranging programme of its kind ever seen in North America. Opening alongside the film series is the free exhibition Home on Native Land, co-curated by Jesse Wente and Steven Loft (Mohawk), National Visiting Trudeau Fellow, Ryerson University and Scholar-in-Residence, Ryerson Image Centre, which runs from June 21 to August 19, 2012. It features First Peoples artists from around the world, including award winning film director Warwick Thornton (Kaytetye) , and exciting new works from leading New Zealand artist Lisa Reihana (Maori) as well as Kent Monkman (Cree), among others, all presenting a variety of new media works spotlighting present-day First Peoples’ experience.

“First Peoples Cinema: 1500 Nations, One Tradition is a project that embodies TIFF’s vision to celebrate diversity and foster international and cultural understanding and exchange,” said Cowan. “Bringing together these works from a variety of First Peoples artists from around the globe will offer visitors a unique experience of creative and cultural discovery.”

“First Peoples cinema strives not only to have more or better representation of Indigenous peoples on screen, but to challenge and change the conventional terms of film interpretation and understanding,” said Wente. “First Peoples Cinema: 1500 Nations, One Tradition is a celebration of Indigenous art, creation and unity of spirit across nations.”


The film retrospective opens with the world premiere of acclaimed throat-singer Tanya Tagaq’s new composition to accompany a screening of Robert Flaherty’s captivating documentary Nanook of the North (1922), one of the most famous films ever made about Indigenous people.

Complementing the programme is a special In Conversation With… Graham Greene event taking place on June 25. Greene first came to international prominence with his Academy Award®-nominated performance in Dances With Wolves (1990), and will discuss his many career highlights. Other special guests confirmed to date include Warwick Thornton, Chris Eyre (Cheyenne and Arapaho), Tusi Tamasese, Shane Belcourt (Métis) , Michelle St John (Wampanoag), and more.

Additional highlights of the retrospective include Zacharias Kunuk (Inuit) and Norman Cohn’s award-winning The Fast Runner Trilogy, comprised of Atanarjuat (2001), The Journals of Knud Rasmussen (2006) and Before Tomorrow (2008), presented for the first time as a complete trilogy. Australian highlights include filmmakers Warwick Thornton’s Camera d’Or winning Samson and Delilah (2009), Rachel Perkins’ (Arrernte) Radiance (1998) and the first Australian feature directed by an Aboriginal woman, Tracey Moffat’s Bedevil (1993). From New Zealand, the series includes the Canadian premiere of a new print of Mana Waka (1937/1990) a remarkable reconstruction of an invaluable, lost documentary by director Merata Mita (Maori). From the United States, Chris Eyre’s Smoke Signals(1998), which won two major prizes at the Sundance Film Festival, brought the Indigenous New Wave to the mainstream and features a remarkable, multi-generational (and largely Canadian) ensemble of First Nations actors.

The series also includes a sidebar programme, Reclaimed Visions, that reexamines and repositions some of the most famous films about First Peoples by non-Native filmmakers, including Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout (1971), Kent MacKenzie’s rediscovered masterpiece The Exiles (1961), and Kevin Costner’s multiple Academy Award®-winning epic Dances With Wolves. Each screening will be introduced by Wente, who will then invite leading artists, critics and scholars from the First Peoples community for a post-screening discussion.

Wente will also give a post-screening lecture on Neil Diamond’s (Cree) documentary Reel Injun (2009), which investigates the onscreen representations of North America’s First Peoples over more than a century of film history.


Highlights from the exhibition Home on Native Land confirmed to date include, the North American premiere of award-winning Australian filmmaker Warwick Thornton’s piece Stranded (2011), a 3D film installation featuring the director hanging from a lightbox cross, hovering above the central Australian desert, with accompanying still photos, and looped soundscape. This is Thornton’s first foray into creating work for a gallery context. Leading New Zealand artist Lisa Reihana has created the multi channel video installation Waharoa (2011) which fuses traditional Maori culture and modern technology to create an archway made of video screens. A new work by Kent Monkman titled The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name (2012) will be included as part of his ongoing series of large scale dioramas.

Also being presented is a silent video work by Nadia Myre (Algonquin) Rethinking Anthem (2008), which alters the key phrase “home and native land” from Canada’s national anthem, and inserts a Native presence with words that make no mention of traditional territories, land claims or displacement. American artist Alan Michelson (Mohawk) displays his large panoramic multi-projection work Two Row II (2005), which shows the two sides of the Grand River in Ontario, which divides Six Nations, the single largest reserve in Canada, and the non-Reserve. A video installation from Rebecca Belmore ( Anishinaabe) titled The Blanket (2011), shows performer Ming Hon struggling against a Hudson’s Bay blanket (possessed by the colonial history of the company) amidst the snowy Manitoba landscape.

Tickets for the film programmes go on sale May 15 for members and May 23 for non-members. Admission to the exhibition is free.

The screening series, First Peoples Cinema: 1500 Nations, One Tradition and exhibition, Home on Native Land are made possible by Major Supporter, the Government of Ontario.

About TIFF
TIFF is a charitable cultural organization whose mission is to transform the way people see the world through film. An international leader in film culture, TIFF projects include the annual Toronto International Film Festival in September; TIFF Bell Lightbox, which features five cinemas, major exhibitions, and learning and entertainment facilities; and innovative national distribution program Film Circuit. The organization generates an annual economic impact of $170 million CAD. TIFF Bell Lightbox is generously supported by contributors including Founding Sponsor Bell, the Province of Ontario, the Government of Canada, the City of Toronto, the Reitman family (Ivan Reitman, Agi Mandel and Susan Michaels), The Daniels Corporation and RBC. For more information, visit

TIFF is generously supported by Lead Sponsor Bell, Major Sponsors RBC, L’Oréal Paris, and Visa, and Major Supporters the Government of Canada, the Government of Ontario, and the City of Toronto.


For information, contact the Communications Department at 416.934.3200 or email

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TIFF Communications Department
TIFF Bell Lightbox
Reitman Square, 350 King Street West
Toronto, ON, M5V 3X5, Canada
Tel: 416.934.3200

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