April 6, 2017 – Vancouver – National Film Board of Canada (NFB)
The National Film Board of Canada’s commitment to powerful and personal documentary storytelling will be showcased at the 2017 DOXA Documentary Film Festival (May 4–14) with premieres of three new feature documentaries, as well as a remastered classic doc that helped to change the way Indigenous issues are explored on screen.
Opening the festival on May 4 at 7 p.m. at the Vogue Theatre is North Vancouver Métis/Dene filmmaker Marie Clements’ electrifying musical documentary The Road Forward. Making its Western Canada premiere at DOXA, the film connects a pivotal moment in Canada’s civil rights history—the beginnings of Indian Nationalism in the 1930s—with First Nations activism today. Interviews and musical sequences describe how a tiny movement, the Native Brotherhood and Sisterhood, grew to become a successful voice for change across the country, as this feature documentary seamlessly links past and present through superb story-songs, blues, rock and traditional beats. The film’s composer, Wayne Lavallee, and many of its performers are from Metro Vancouver and the surrounding area, including Ronnie Dean Harris, a.k.a. Ostwelve (Langley), Murray Porter (North Vancouver) and Shakti Hayes (Bellingham, Washington). The Road Forward is produced and executive produced by Shirley Vercruysse for the NFB’s BC & Yukon Studio in Vancouver. The film will also screen on May 10 at 12:30 p.m. at the Annex, as part of the Rated Y for Youth program.
DOXA is hosting the BC premiere of Vancouver filmmaker Julia Ivanova’s Limit Is the Sky on May 5 at 6:15 p.m. at the Vancity Theatre. Limit Is the Sky is an unflinchingly honest portrait of a new generation of youth: diverse, ambitious, and driven by the seductive lure of big cash and the lifestyle it buys. The film follows six young Canadians, including refugees from the Middle East and Africa, who come to Fort McMurray, the capital of the third-largest oil reserve in the world. “Fort Mac” becomes a testing ground for these young dreamers as they struggle with their own perceptions of money, glory and self-worth, amid plummeting oil prices, an unpredictable economy and, most recently, a devastating wildfire. Limit Is the Sky is produced by Bonnie Thompson and executive produced by David Christensen for the NFB’s North West Studio in Edmonton.
Making its English-language premiere on May 13 at noon at the Vancity Theatre as part of the Justice Forum, Santiago Bertolino’s Freelancer on the Front Lines follows Canadian freelance journalist Jesse Rosenfeld, who has made the Middle East the focus of his work. To make a living, he must keep up with constantly moving news targets. Freelancer on the Front Lines follows his journey across the region, showing us thorny geopolitical realities shaped by the events transforming the Middle East and exploring how journalism practices have changed in the age of the Internet. Produced at the NFB’s French-language Documentary Studio by Nathalie Cloutier and Denis McCready with executive producer Colette Loumède, the film premiered in November 2016 in its original version, Un journaliste au front, as the closing night film at the Montreal International Documentary Festival (RIDM).
Also screening in the Justice Forum on May 13 at 2:45 p.m. at the Vancity Theatre is the digitally remastered 1969 documentary You Are on Indian Land. Created as part of the NFB’s pioneering community film program Challenge for Change, You Are on Indian Land is a landmark of Indigenous cinema and was one of the first films to voice the concerns of First Peoples in Canada. Director Michael Kanentakeron Mitchell records the blocking of the international bridge that cuts through his home town, the St. Regis Reserve. While the news media focused on altercations with the police, Mitchell showed the broader context that led to the blockade. He narrates the film using terms like “we,” “our land,” and “our people,” crafting an insider perspective and creating space through direct-cinema shooting techniques for community members to speak for themselves. Produced by George C. Stoney, this film exposes issues around treaty, territory and land rights that are still highly relevant today.
The new print of You Are on Indian Land presented at DOXA has been remastered in 2K, with credits redone to recognize the roles of director Michael Kanentakeron Mitchell and assistant editor Noel Starblanket, who were not credited when the film was released. Veteran filmmaker Mort Ransen, now based on Salt Spring Island, has always maintained that Mitchell rather than he was the film’s true director. It was a conversation last year at DOXA between Ransen and NFB English Program Executive Director Michelle van Beusekom that led to the decision to correct this error―with DOXA audiences now able to experience this classic doc as it should be seen, for the very first time.
About the filmmakers
Marie Clements (Métis/Dene) is a writer, director and producer of film, television, radio, new media and live performance. Her films include the award-winning 2015 docudrama Number 14 and the 2013 short drama Pilgrims, which screened at TIFF and Telefilm Canada’s Not Short on Talent program at the Cannes Market. Her short documentary The Language of Love was an official selection at Hot Docs in 2012.
Julia Ivanova’s body of work includes Family Portrait in Black and White (2011), a story about black Ukrainian orphans and their foster mother, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was named Best Canadian Feature at Hot Docs 2011; Fatherhood Dreams (2007), the first Canadian documentary about gay fathers and their children; and True Love or Marriage Fraud: The Price of Heartache (2010), an investigation of marriage fraud that helped to change Canadian sponsorship laws. She teaches documentary and is a co-chair of DOC BC.
Santiago Bertolino is an independent filmmaker and web video journalist. In 2013, he teamed up with Hugo Samson to direct Red Square on a Blackboard, a Gémeaux Award-winning documentary on the “maple spring,” the student demos of 2012 supporting free tuition in Quebec. In 2014, he co-wrote Pipelines, Power and Democracy with the film’s director, Olivier D. Asselin. Bertolino has a keen interest in conflicts in the Middle East, with such films as La marche pour la libération de Gaza ou le tourbillon égyptien and Seules, les pierres n’arrêteront pas l’occupation, co-directed with Steve Patry. He is the son of acclaimed documentarian Daniel Bertolino.
Michael Kanentakeron Mitchell
Originally a high-steel worker like so like many Mohawks before him, Michael Kanentakeron Mitchell left the trade in 1967 to join the NFB’s new “Indian Film Crew” training program, where he directed You Are on Indian Land. Mitchell served a two-year term as a District Chief (1970–1972) and in 1974 took on a leadership role to revive the North American Indian Traveling College. In 1982, he returned to politics as District Chief. Mitchell was elected Grand Chief of the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne in 1984 and served in that role almost continuously until his retirement in 2015.
DOXA Documentary Film Festival