Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square is flooded. Its infrastructure has merged with the local fauna; mature trees grow through cracks in the sidewalks and vines cover south-facing walls. People commute via canoe and grow vegetables on skyscraper roofs. Urban life is thriving.
Rooted in the realm of Indigenous futurism, Biidaaban: First Light is an interactive VR time-jump into a highly realistic—and radically different—Toronto of tomorrow. As users explore this altered city now reclaimed by nature, they must think about their place in history and ultimately their role in the future.
The town square is flooded. The infrastructure has merged with local flora and people commute via canoe. In this radically different future, urban life is thriving. Biidaaban: First Light illuminates how Indigenous languages can provide a framework for understanding our place in a reconciled version of Canada’s largest urban environment.
Language carries the knowledge of its speakers. Indigenous North American languages are radically different from European languages and embody sets of relationships to the land, to each other, and to time itself. But as Indigenous languages face the risk of disappearing, we risk losing what they have to teach us.
Rooted in Indigenous futurism, Biidaaban: First Light asks users to think about their place in history and their role in a possible future. As they move through a highly realistic future Toronto reclaimed by nature, they hear the languages of the place originally known as Tkaronto. Through gaze-based interactions, users engage with the written text of the Wendat, Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) and Anishinaabe (Ojibway) and gain insight into the complex thought systems of this land’s first peoples.
The VR environment was created using to-scale architectural models of Toronto’s Osgoode subway station and the buildings surrounding Nathan Phillips Square.
Lisa Jackson (Anishinaabe) is one of Canada’s most celebrated contemporary artists working in film and VR. In Biidaaban: First Light, Lisa joins forces with 3D artist Mathew Borrett to create a future for Canada’s largest urban centre from an Indigenous female perspective.
By Lisa Jackson, Mathew Borrett,
Jam3 and the National Film Board of Canada.
Produced by the National Film Board of Canada.
Creative Director and Story by
3D Artist and Environment Design
VR Designer and Developer
Soundscape Design by
Fader Master Sound Studios
Thanksgiving Address adapted by
Thanksgiving Address spoken by
Kawennakon Bonnie Whitlow
“Nayendamowin Mitigwaaking” by
Margaret Ann Noodin
Wendat spoken by
Jeneen Frei Njootli
Digging Woman Shoot
Director of Photography
Assistants Set Decorator
Executive Creative Director
Dirk Van Ginkel
Associate Creative Director
Luis Guajardo Diaz
Juan Manuel Codó
National Film Board of Canada
Dana Dansereau & Rob McLaughlin
Director of Production and Operations
Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
Biidaaban: First Light was created
in Toronto, on the traditional territories
of the Wendat, the Anishinaabeg,
Haudenosaunee, Métis and the
Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation,
as well as in Vancouver on the unceded
territory of the Coast Salish peoples,
including the territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm
(Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish),
Stó:lō and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh
“Nayendamowin Mitigwaaking/Woodland Liberty”
adapted from Weweni by Margaret Noodin.
Copyright © 2015 Wayne State University Press,
with the permission of Wayne State University Press.
Skymap provided by NASA/Goddard
Space Flight Center Scientific
© 2018 National Film Board of Canada