Heartbeat of a Nation
Le cœur battant d'une nation
| 20 min 22 sec
Original English version
Awards and Festivals
Official selection - ShortsCalgary International Film Festival, Canada (2022)
Official Selection - Shorts Forum ProgramVancouver International Film Festival, Canada (2022)
Official SelectionimagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival, Canada (2022)
Official SelectionAmerican Indian Film Festival, San Francisco (2022)
A National Film Board of Canada production
On a beautiful sunny day in Northern Alberta, a river surrounded by green trees runs gently through the traditional lands of the Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation.
As birds softly chirp, a father makes a tobacco offering to the river and reaches his hands below the water’s surface to pull out a caribou hide. Nearby, his young child watches. Today they will learn from their father how to make a caribou drum.
Heartbeat of a Nation is an evocative short documentary by Eric Janvier. It celebrates the healing of a community and a nation through the reclamation and passing down of traditional teachings within a Dene family.
In the Northern Alberta community of Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation, a father teaches his child how to create a caribou drum. In Heartbeat of a Nation, a short documentary by Eric Janvier, cultural reclamation and traditional knowledge are celebrated and passed down from one generation to the next, inspiring renewed hope for the future.
In Heartbeat of a Nation, a short documentary by Eric Janvier that celebrates Dene cultural reclamation and revitalization, a father passes on traditional knowledge to his child through the teachings of a caribou drum.
Contact NFB publicist for broadcast–quality excerpts.
Interview with Filmmaker Eric Janvier
What is the importance of caribou and the caribou drum to your community?
Before residential school, we had always had the caribou drum. We relied on the woodland caribou, but as industry moved in and as the caribou population in Northern Alberta started to decline, we lost the ability to hunt the caribou, to harvest its hide for our drums.
When did the caribou drum teaching return to your family and community?
In the last 10 years or so, people from different Dene communities came to ours and reintroduced the drum to us. It was kind of entrusted to our family to allow it to become part of our community. We started drumming and we started getting the younger generation involved.
What inspired you to make the film?
I wanted to tell a story that was personal to me, and my family being the drum carriers for our community was as personal as it could get. We’re reclaiming something that is so personal and so spiritual to us. That’s a story that needed to be told. I felt like I had an obligation to my family, to my culture, to my people to tell this story.
What do you hope audiences take away from the film?
For the Indigenous audience that watches this film, I want them to feel a sense of pride in their culture and who they are. It’s never too late to reclaim what was lost. We have an obligation to take these teachings and pass them on to the younger generation so that they have a sense of pride in who they are. For the non-Indigenous community, I want them to understand that we’re still here. The things that have been lost have been found again. We’re not afraid anymore to share this with the world.
Contact NFB publicist for high-resolution images for print.
Written and Directed by
Filmed on location in Janvier, Alberta Treaty 8 territory
Director of Photography
Sound Design and Mix
Studio Operations Manager
Picture Finishing Services
Recording & Re-recording
Katja De Bock
Multi-Media Transcripts Inc.
Produced by the National Film Board of Canada © 2022
About the NFB
The NFB is Canada’s public producer and distributor of award-winning documentaries, auteur animation, interactive stories and participatory experiences, working with talented creators across the country. The NFB is taking action to combat systemic racism and become a more open and diverse organization, while working to strengthen Indigenous-led production and gender equity in film and digital media. NFB productions have won more than 7,000 awards, including 12 Oscars. To access this unique content, visit NFB.ca.