The Vision of a Native Filmmaker
Publication Year: 2006
Published by: University of Nebraska Press
Series: American Indian Lives
I got off a plane in Montreal a few years ago, hopped into a taxi with too many notebooks and not enough luggage under my arm, and asked the driver to take me to the offices of the National Film Board (NFB). With a pensive frown and an old-world twist of his mustache, he put the car into gear and adjusted the mirror to give me a glance. ...
1. Abenaki Beginnings
Alanis Obomsawin does not know the exact place of her birth, only that she was born somewhere near Lebanon, New Hampshire, on August 31, 1932, and that, when she was an infant, she slipped into a deep coma that neither her parents nor the local doctor could explain. ...
2. Early Films
The coloring is inside the lines, more or less, and the picture is a bright splash of red, blue, and green on construction paper. The lens is close enough to reveal an unsteady line, the product of a small hand still learning to manage the pencil. As the seconds slip past, we see nothing but drawings, seemingly the work of many different hands. ...
3. A Gendered Gaze?
Is it significant that the cardinal figure in Native filmmaking is female? Yes, I think so, although in ways that are more complex than I initially expected. I went into this project with some unexamined assumptions about the way gender identity would play out on-screen for Obomsawin, and I fear that this could have overdetermined my reading of her films. ...
4. Documentary on the Middle Ground
The spark was an unlikely combination of golf and greed. In 1989 an ill-conceived plan for sixty luxury homes surrounding an upscale golf course set off the most serious confrontation between Native people and government authorities in contemporary Canadian history, something that for U.S. observers might have evoked the deadly ...
5. Why Documentary?
Alanis Obomsawin has, as we have seen, known success as a storyteller, singer, activist, education consultant, and documentarian, yet it is the last role that has occupied most of her creative life.What is it about the documentary impulse that she finds so necessary and irresistible? Why documentary? ...
6. Cinema of Sovereignty
As the start of the new millennium came and went, Alanis Obomsawin followed the path of more than one well-regarded artist: having reached a certain stage in a storied career, she turned her gaze ever closer to home. Nearing and then surpassing seventy years of age, the filmmaker did not slow down in the slightest but instead returned her ...
Today, Alanis Obomsawin has come full circle in her creative work to arrive at the very place where she started in the rural woods of Quebec and New Hampshire quite some time ago. In the process of beginning a new documentary on Abenaki culture, she will soon add her voice to the burgeoning “Abenaki renaissance” whose arrival ...
Appendix A: Filmography
Appendix B: Native Documentaries