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Alanis Obomsawin takes her 50th film in 50 years to TIFF

Alanis Obomsawin in Toronto. Photo by Barb Nahwegahbow

“Young people are leading the way. Their leadership and strength is beautiful and inspiring.” — Alanis Obomsawin

Making its world premiere in the Masters program at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival is “Our People Will Be Healed”. It is the latest feature documentary by Montreal-based Abenaki filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin, her 50th film in 50 years of her legendary filmmaking.

The film takes audiences inside the Helen Betty Osborne Ininiw Education Resource Centre, an innovative N-12 school in the remote Cree community of Norway House, where educators and programs are helping First Nations children to learn and thrive, growing up strong and proud.

The school’s name honors a young woman from Norway House whose notorious 1971 murder was left ignored and unsolved for 16 years.

“Our People Will Be Healed,” from the National Film Board of Canada, provides a sobering look at the painful history endured by Cree people in northern Manitoba.

Yet it provides a hopeful vision for First Nations peoples, showing how improved education can save lives and change the future for Indigenous youth.

Children’s rights have been a central theme in much of Obomsawin’s body of work. “Our People Will Be Healed” is the latest in a cycle of films that began with her 2012 Donald Brittain award-winning “The People of the Kattawapiskak River” and continued with “Hi-Ho Mistahey!” (2013), “Trick or Treaty?” (2014) and “We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice” (2016).

It was Jordan River Anderson, a child from Norway House whose too-short life was marred by inadequate health care for a rare medical condition, who became a symbol in the fight for equal health and social services for First Nations, as documented in Obomsawin’s 2016 film.

Jordan will also be the subject of Obomsawin’s next film, her 51st, tentatively titled “Jordan’s Principle”.

For Obomsawin, this new film cycle represents a departure for her and for First Nations.

“Young people are leading the way. Their leadership and strength is beautiful and inspiring,” Obomsawin said. “We are on the road to a place we’ve never been before, to a new age for Indigenous peoples, and it is our youth who are leading us. This is what I am trying to show in these films.”

TIFF takes place from Sept. 7 to Sept 17. The scheduled show times for “Our People Will Be Healed” have yet to be announced.

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