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Spotlight: Indigenous Projects Screened At TIFF 2020

The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is one of the most accessible and one of the largest publicly attended film festivals in the world. TIFF prides itself on the diversity of the films, television shows and shorts that they screen each year at the festival and this year was no different.

While it was different in terms of how films were accessed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the number of films screened, TIFF still had a plethora of diverse films directed by and starring Black, Indigenous and people of colour talent.

This year at TIFF there were great projects featuring Indigenous talent that was screened for press and audiences alike that should most definitely be added to your watchlists when they’re widely available!

Check them out below:

Beans (dir. Tracey Deer)

Indigenous Projects TIFF - Beans
Kiawentiio as Beans (Courtesy of EMAfilms)

Writer-director Tracey Deer’s feature directorial debut Beans is a stunning piece of filmmaking. Deer holds nothing back as she sheds light on one of the most important moments of Canadian history. Dubbed by the media as the “Oka Crisis”, Beans does the important job of highlighting the story from the perspective of the Indigenous communities behind the frontlines of the stand-off.

Kiawentiio shines as Beans putting forth an understated and powerful performance which is sure to captivate audiences. Equally great in the roles of Lily and April respectively, are Dickerson and Alexis. Each and every one help bring Deer’s story to life with passionate performances that are some of the best that I’ve witnessed from the many films screened at Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) this year. It is easy to tell that Deer put her absolute all into Beans and created a piece of art that is a stirring and eye-opening masterpiece. Beans is truly one of the best coming-of-age films that you will experience and certainly worthy of several watches.

Trickster (dir. Michelle Latimer)

(Courtesy of Sienna Films Trickster XIX Inc. and Streel Films)

This season of Trickster covers the first novel, which establishes Jared, his family, his community in Kitimat, British Columbia, and his connection to the trickster. The first two episodes of the series which premiered at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival, set up the general atmosphere and characters. The set up is very promising, with Jared being a likeable protagonist. Jared’s family suffers from a declining economy in his small town, prospects are slim, and Jared must make due. He is a good kid trying to get through life, perhaps coasting too hard as he is far too brilliant to be selling drugs.

Trickster is a promising new series that boasts an incredible ensemble of Indigenous actors, a story about Haisla people and the stories they tell.

The Water Walker (dir. James Burns)

(Courtesy of Seeing Red 6 Nations and Contour Films Inc.)

At just 15-years-old, Autumn Peltier is a powerful and prominent advocate for clean drinking water in Indigenous communities around the world. In The Water Walker, the audience follows Peltier’s journey from Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory to New York City to speak at the United Nations. Peltier’s trip is for the need to preserve the future of Indigenous communities.

The short documentary is very in-depth, despite being only 13-minutes in length. Not only does it focus on Peltier’s activism, but it also highlights the highs and lows of Peltier’s fame. Dubbed the Water Warrior, Peltier often felt out of place due to her new-found recognition and opens up about bullying she experienced, and how she didn’t want to leave the house some days. Navigating teenagehood while being the face on an important cause is something that took its toll. Coupled with beautifully animated scenes and narrated by Graham Greene, The Water Walker is a truly inspiring documentary that will serve as an eye-opener for many.

An Inconvenient Indian (dir. Michelle Latimer)

(Courtesy of 90th Parallel Productions and National Film Board of Canada)

Directed by Michelle Latimer, An Inconvenient Indian is a documentary that explores the colonization of Indigenous people throughout North America. Based on Thomas King’s award-winning book, An Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People, the documentary focuses on the erasure and systemic suppression of Indigenous history, culture, religion and traditions by state institutions.

Via TIFF: “The film also takes direct aim at North America’s pernicious notion of history and truth. As King points out, the claim that previous generations were ignorant of the repercussions of their actions is disgracefully self-serving — and only allows those in power to return to the scene of the crime to continue stealing land and resources. King concludes his narration with a powerful exhortation that we can do what we want with his analysis, but we can no longer claim we were innocent or ignorant, making Inconvenient Indian one of the most essential films at this year’s Festival.”

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