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New docs by Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Sean Horlor and Steve J. Adams, Sheona McDonald, and Courtney Montour. Four NFB world premieres online at Hot Docs 2021.


March 23, 2021 – Toronto – National Film Board of Canada

The 2021 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival is presenting four world premieres of National Film Board of Canada (NFB) documentaries that explore powerful themes of identity and human rights by Indigenous, LGBTQ2+ and women film creators.

This year’s festival will be available online to all Canadians from April 29 to May 9.

Two new NFB feature-length films are premiering in Canadian Spectrum:

  • Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy by Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, a multi-award-winning filmmaker and actor, and member of the Kainai First Nation and the Sámi in Norway, whose recent work includes the acclaimed 2019 feature The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open.
  • Someone Like Meby Sean Horlor and Steve J. Adams, a directing duo from Vancouver who created work that shines a spotlight on misunderstandings—queer and otherwise.

Two short NFB docs are also debuting, each paired with a mid-length film:

  • Into Light by Sheona McDonald, a Canadian Screen Award-winning director, writer and producer based in West Vancouver.
  • Mary Two-Axe Earley: I Am Indian Again by Kahnawake creator Courtney Montour, who works in documentary film and digital media exploring issues of Indigenous identity.

All films will be accompanied by Q&As. The NFB is programming live Q&As for all its films, bringing together directors and special guests, where online audiences can ask questions in real time. Additionally, feature-doc Q&As with filmmakers will be prerecorded by the festival.

Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers is also presenting a master class on her filmmaking process on May 5.

Canadian Spectrum Feature Documentaries

Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy by Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers

ElleMáijá Tailfeathers’ film is an intimate portrait of survival, love and the collective work of healing in the Kainai First Nation in southern Alberta, a Blackfoot community facing the impacts of substance use and a drug-poisoning epidemic. Community members active in addiction and recovery, first responders and medical professionals implement harm reduction to save lives. This work is contextualized within the historical and contemporary impacts of settler colonialism; Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy draws a connecting line between the effects of colonial violence on Blackfoot land and people and the ongoing substance-use crisis. Held in love and hope for the future, the film asks the audience to be a part of a radical and profound change in Tailfeathers’ community.

Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy is produced by Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers and Lori Lozinski (Seen Through Woman Productions) and NFB producer and executive producer David Christensen (North West Studio), with the participation of Telefilm Canada and the assistance of the Hot Docs CrossCurrents Canada Doc Fund.

Someone Like Me by Sean Horlor and Steve J. Adams

Drake, a young gay man from Uganda, leaves behind everything he knows to attain the universal freedoms everyone deserves: to be who he is and love whomever he chooses without fear of discrimination, persecution, or violence. A group of queer strangers unite to resettle Drake in Vancouver, but they are tasked with a year-long commitment to someone they’ve never met, and struggle with the challenging conditions of this support. Together, Drake and his sponsors embark on an emotional journey in search of personal freedom, revealing how in a world where one must constantly fight for the right to exist, survival itself becomes a victory.

Produced by Teri Snelgrove and Shirley Vercruysse, and executive-produced by Shirley Vercruysse for the BC & Yukon Studio.

Canadian Spectrum Short Documentaries

Into Light by Sheona McDonald

When a child reveals who they truly are on the inside, how does a parent set aside their own expectations to help them become their most authentic self? Set against the northern landscape of Yellowknife, Sheona McDonald’s new documentary captures a season of change as a mother and child navigate the complexities of gender identity together. As elemental changes parallel this extraordinary journey, the return of brighter days uncovers a confident and social little girl with an encyclopedic knowledge of dinosaurs, a deep love of animals, and a parent who fully embraces this magical person.

Produced by Teri Snelgrove and executive-produced by Shirley Vercruysse for the BC & Yukon Studio.

Mary Two-Axe Earley: I Am Indian Again by Courtney Montour

Mary Two-Axe Earley: I Am Indian Again shares the powerful story of Mary Two-Axe Earley, who fought for more than two decades to challenge sex discrimination against First Nations women embedded in Canada’s Indian Act and became a key figure in Canada’s women’s rights movement. Mohawk filmmaker Courtney Montour uses audio conversations recorded by Alanis Obomsawin as well as never-before-seen archival footage to engage in a deeply personal conversation with the late Mohawk woman, who stood up to challenge sexist and genocidal government policies that stripped First Nations women of their Indian status when they married non-Indian men. She speaks with Cree activist Nellie Carlson, Mary’s lifelong friend and co-founder of Indian Rights for Indian Women, and meets with three generations in Mary’s Kahnawà:ke kitchen to reflect on the legacy of a woman who galvanized a national network of allies to help restore Indian status to thousands of First Nations women and children.

Produced by Kat Baulu and Ariel Nasr and executive-produced by Annette Clarke for the Quebec-Atlantic Studio.

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Related Products

Electronic Press Kit | Images, trailers, synopses: Into Light | Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy | Mary Two-Axe Earley: I Am Indian Again | Someone Like Me

Associated Links

Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival
Telefilm Canada
Hot Docs CrossCurrents Canada Doc Fund

French version here | Version française ici.

Media Relations

  • About the NFB

    Founded in 1939, the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) is a one-of-a-kind producer, co-producer and distributor of distinctive, engaging, relevant and innovative documentary and animated films. As a talent incubator, it is one of the world’s leading creative centres. The NFB has enabled Canadians to tell and hear each other’s stories for over eight decades, and its films are a reliable and accessible educational resource. The NFB is also recognized around the world for its expertise in preservation and conservation, and for its rich and vibrant collection of works, which form a pillar of Canada’s cultural heritage. To date, the NFB has produced more than 14,000 works, 6,500 of which can be streamed free of charge at nfb.ca. The NFB and its productions and co-productions have earned over 7,000 awards, including 11 Oscars and an Honorary Academy Award for overall excellence in cinema.