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Movie still from Spear | Image source:

In 2001, Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, by Nunavut director Zacharias Kunuk premiered at Cannes Film Festival with critical acclaim and success, winning the Camera d’or for best first feature. In a recent poll done by TIFF insiders and academics the film was named the number one Canadian movie of all time.

Twelve years after the world premiere of Atanarjuat, CBC declared 2013 to be a “big year for First Nations at TIFF” because the festival screened three Indigenous made feature films that year. According to the report, Indigenous Feature Film Productions in Canada: A National and International Perspective, between 2008-2013 the film festival had only ever screened three Indigenous made feature films. The report also states that Canada is considered a ‘pillar in Indigenous filmmaking’, but still lacks funding for features by Indigenous filmmakers. So while more can be done in terms of funding, Indigenous filmmakers are still making waves on the festival circuit.

This year TIFF is screening four Indigenous made feature films along with six Indigenous made short films. MUSKRAT Magazine presents the eleven Indigenous filmmakers of TIFF 2015.

Andrew Martin
Andrew Martin | Image Source: GAT Productions Media

1. Adam Garnet Jones (Cree/Métis)
FIRE SONG – 85 mins

Adam Garnet Jones was born in Calgary, raised in Edmonton and studied film at Ryerson University in Toronto. The writer, director and editor has completed 20 short films with positive international response. Fire Song is his directorial feature debut. The film follows, Shane, a young, two spirited Anishnaabe man who is trying to hold his family together after the suicide of his sister, while trying to raise money for tuition and decide to move to Toronto with his secret gay lover or his girlfriend.

Film still from Mia' | Image source:
Film still from Mia’ | Image source:

2. Amanda ‘Spotted Fawn’ Strong (Métis)
MIA’ – 8 mins

Strong is from Toronto, ON and studied Interpretive Illustrations and Photography at the Sheridan Institute. She has founded Spotted Fawn Productions and is part of the Indigenous Routes Collectives, a non-profit organization to meet the growing need for new media training for Indigenous youth. She works in photography, illustration and media. This is her fifth short film screening at TIFF.

3. Bracken Hanuse Corlett (Wuikinuxv/Klahoose)
MIA’ – 8 mins

Hanuse Corlett hails from Wuikinuxv and Klahoose First Nation. He graduated from En’owkin Centre for Indigenous Arts and has a fine arts degree from University of British Columbia. His mediums are video, sound, painting, carving, sculpture, writing and performance. Strong and Hanuse-Corlett mix animation styles in Mia’ to tell the story of a street artist who gets transformed into a salmon and travels through the decayed cityscapes and ancient forests.

Scene From Mobilize
Scene From Mobilize | Image Source:

4. Caroline Monnet (Algonquin)
MOBILIZE – 4 mins

Monnet is a self-taught multi-disciplinary artist that works with film, video, paint, sculpture and installation from Outaouais, QC. She is one of the founding members of the collective ITWÉ, “a trans-disciplinary art collective dedicated to research, creation, production and education in the field of Aboriginal digital culture”. Her works have been exhibited internationally in Berlin, Paris and the UK. Mobilize takes us on a journey from the far north to the urban south, addressing modern and traditional Aboriginal identity and representation.

Scene From Nulla Nulla
Scene From Nulla Nulla | Image Source:

5. Dylan River (Aboriginal Australian)
NULLA NULLA – 6 mins

River grew up in Alice Springs, Australia. He comes from a family full of filmmakers and is mostly self-taught through experimentation with visual arts in high school. This is his second short film screening at TIFF. Nulla Nulla is a comedy about a freshly trained cop who “gets dropped into the deep end” by his veteran training partner in a remote Aboriginal community in Australia.

Scene From Casualties Of Modernity
Scene From Casualties Of Modernity | Image Source:

6. Kent Monkman (Cree)

Monkman was born in St.Mary’s, ON and grew up in Manitoba. At the age of 17 he began his studies in commercial art at Sheridan College. He works with various mediums such as paint, film, video, performance and installations. His solo exhibitions and short films have won numerous awards have been displayed internationally. This is his fourth TIFF screening. Casualties of Modernity is a campy, queer, soap opera mash up that critiques the Eurocentric art world.

Film Still From Kokum
Film Still From Kokum | Image Source:

7. Kevin Papatie (Anicinape)
KOKOM – 5 mins

Papatie was born in Kitcisakik, QC and has 12 short films under his belt, four of which have been featured at TIFF. He has worked with the Wapikoni Project since its inception in 2004, a non profit organization that travel to give workshops on directing short films and musical works in Aboriginal communities. Kokum is a tribute to his grandmother that focuses on the history of the Anicinape as a cyclical journey that begins and ends with resilience.

Scene From Mekko
Scene From Mekko | Image Source:

8. Sterling Harjo (Seminole)
MEKKO – 84 mins

Harjo was born in Holdenville, Oklahoma and completed his film studies at the University of Oklahoma. He is one of the founding members of the 1491’s, an Aboriginal comedy troupe that satires Native American stereotypes and representation in American society. This is his fourth film to be screened at TIFF. Mekko is a homeless Muscogee man living on the streets after serving 19 years in prison for murder. When tragedy strikes, he is faced with a difficult decision that could cleanse him from the darkness – or drag him deeper into it.

Scene from Spear
Scene from Spear | Image Source:

9. Stephen Page (Yugambeh)
SPEAR – 84 mins

Page was born in Brisbane and studied dance at the National Aboriginal and Islander Skills Development Association. Since then he has toured America, France, UK and Germany before overseeing the Bangarra Dance Theatre as their artistic director. This is his first feature film directorial debut. SPEAR follows Djali, a young man who journeys from the Australian outback to the city of Sydney as he sets out to understand what it means to be a man with ancient traditions in a modern world.

Scene From Born To Dance
Scene From Born To Dance | Image Source:

10. Tammy Davis (Maori)
BORN TO DANCE – 96 mins

Tammy Davis is a born and raised New Zealand actor who grew up in the central north island town of Raetihi. After studying drama at Northland Polytechnic, he landed acting roles in acclaimed films such as Whale Rider, Black Sheep and most famously as Munter in the comedy-drama series, Outrageous Fortune. Davis’ directorial debut follows the story of Tu, an aspiring hip hop dancer from a small Maori neighborhood who strikes a chance at winning the regional competition.

Film Still From Clouds Of Autumn
Film Still From Clouds Of Autumn | Image Source:

11. Trevor Mack (Tsilhqot’in)

Mack grew up in the Tsilhqot’in (Chilcotin) First Nation and is mostly a self-taught, multi media artist that started experimenting with media, editing and film in elementary school. He studied at Capilano University in North Vancouver for two years before dropping out to work as a contract videographer. He has shot two short films, The Blanketing and Clouds of Autumn, both screened at TIFF. Clouds of Autumn tell the story of a brother and sister torn apart when the sister is sent to a residential school.

For more information on screen times and other movies go to:

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About The Author

MUSKRAT Magazine

MUSKRAT is an on-line Indigenous arts, culture magazine that honours the connection between humans and our traditional ecological knowledge by exhibiting original works and critical commentary. MUSKRAT embraces both rural and urban settings and uses media arts, the Internet, and wireless technology to investigate and disseminate traditional knowledges in ways that inspire their reclamation.

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