Where to Stream Free Docs and Flicks this Summer
Have you watched all the Netflix or TV reruns that you can handle these past few months? Then how about heading to nfb.ca to explore its Indigenous Film Collection! The National Film Board showcases films that take a stand on issues of global importance, stories about the environment, human rights, the arts and so much more. The majority of films can all be streamed free of charge, including documentaries, animations, experimental films, fiction and interactive works. Check out the gallery of 200+ Indigenous works at www.nfb.ca/indigenous-cinema.
Here are some recent releases and background on the talented filmmakers who created them.
The Road Forward
This musical documentary by Marie Clements connects a pivotal moment in Canada’s civil rights history—the beginnings of Indian Nationalism in the 1930s—with the powerful momentum of First Nations activism today.
Clements paints an electrifying picture of how a tiny movement, the Native Brotherhood and Native Sisterhood, became a powerful voice for social, political and legal advocacy, eventually affecting profound change at the national level. The Road Forward’s stunningly shot musical sequences, performed by an ensemble of some of Canada’s finest vocalists and musicians, seamlessly connect past and present with soaring vocals, blues, rock and traditional beats.
The Road Forward is a rousing tribute to the fighters for First Nations rights, a soul-resounding historical experience, and a visceral call to action.
Watch it: nfb.ca/film/road_forward
Marie Clements (Métis/Dene) is an award-winning writer, director and producer of film, television, radio, new media and live performance. Her work as a filmmaker includes 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. The film production of Clements’ screenplay Unnatural and Accidental premiered at the MoMA Film Festival in New York and also screened at TIFF.
Her latest documentary The Road Forward has screened at more than 200 venues in North America and received the Best Director Award at the American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco, in addition to being nominated for the Writers Guild of Canada’s Documentary Screenwriting Award in 2018.
Clements also owns and operates MCM, an independent media production company specializing in the development, creation and production of innovative works of media that explore an Indigenous and intercultural reality.
The Mountain of SGaana
This animated short film spins a magical tale of a young man who is stolen away to the spirit world, and the young woman who rescues him. Haida filmmaker Christopher Auchter’s dream-like gem brilliantly entwines traditional animation with formal elements of Haida art, which are brought to life by a rich, evocative palette and stylized effects.
As a young fisherman cruises along a rugged shoreline, a tiny mouse in Haida regalia appears and starts to knit a blanket. A story unfolds on the blanket as it grows longer, illustrating the ancient tale of Haida master sea hunter Naa-Naa-Simgat and his beloved, Kuuga Kuns. When a SGaana (the Haida word for “killer whale”) captures the hunter and drags him down into a supernatural world, the courageous Kuuga Kuns sets off to save him.
Will the lovers manage to escape the undersea Mountain of SGaana, or will they, too, become part of the Haida spirit world forever?
Watch it: nfb.ca/film/mountain_of_sgaana
Now Is the Time
When internationally renowned Haida carver Robert Davidson was only 22 years old, he was instrumental in changing the history of his people forever. With help from his grandparents, his father and his younger brother Reg, Davidson committed to carving the first new totem pole in Old Massett in almost a century.
On the 50th anniversary of the pole’s raising, Haida filmmaker Christopher Auchter steps easily through history to revisit that day in August 1969, when the entire village gathered to celebrate the event that would signal the rebirth of the Haida spirit.
Resplendent with animation, emotional interviews and original footage shot by what was then known as the NFB’s Indian Film Crew, Now Is the Time captures three generations of Eagle and Raven clan working together to raise the pole in the old way, inching it higher and higher, until it stands proud and strong against the clear blue sky.
Watch it: nfb.ca/film/now-is-the-time
Christopher Auchter grew up roaming the beaches and forests of the Haida Gwaii archipelago off Canada’s West Coast, and his art is rooted in the land and stories of the Haida people. From early on, he recorded his feelings and impressions as images, and today his filmmaking serves the same function.
His goal is to create films that are as engaging and entertaining as the many people and environments that have inspired him, to help facilitate genuine contact between the Haida people and the global community.
His previous projects include Daniel Janke’s How People Got Fire, Electronic Arts’ NHL Games and Nintendo’s Punch Out! He has illustrated three children’s books, including Jordan Wheeler’s Just a Walk, a comic by Richard Van Camp called Kiss Me Deadly, and a graphic novel by W.L. Liberman entitled The Ruptured Sky: The War of 1812.
Birth of a Family
Three sisters and a brother, adopted as infants into separate families across North America, meet together for the first time in this deeply moving documentary by director Tasha Hubbard.
Removed from their young Dene mother’s care as part of Canada’s infamous Sixties Scoop, Betty Ann, Esther, Rosalie and Ben were four of the 20,000 Indigenous children taken from their families between 1955 and 1985, to be either adopted into white families or to live in foster care. Now all in middle age, each has grown up in different circumstances, with different family cultures, different values and no shared memories. Birth of a Family follows them through the challenges, trepidations and joys of their first steps towards forming their family.
Meeting all together for the first time, they spend a week in Banff, Alberta, sharing what they know about their mother, and stories about their lives and the struggles they went through as foster kids and adoptees. As the four siblings piece together their shared history, their connection deepens, bringing laughter with it, and their family begins to take shape.
Watch it: nfb.ca/film/birth_of_a_family
Tasha Hubbard (Cree) is an award-winning filmmaker and an assistant professor in the University of Saskatchewan’s Department of English. Her solo writing/directing project Two Worlds Colliding won a Gemini and a Golden Sheaf Award in 2005. Her animated short film Buffalo Calling screened as part of the Ga Ni Tha exhibit held on the occasion of the 2015 Venice Biennale, and her short hybrid documentary 7 Minutes won a Golden Sheaf Award in 2016.
Tasha also does research and creative projects on Indigenous media, the representation of the buffalo, and Indigenous women and children’s experiences. She speaks and writes widely on Indigenous media and racism both in Canada and abroad, and is a blog contributor to the Broadbent Institute’s website.
The great Canadian tradition of hockey comes with its own sacraments and rituals, whether that’s trash talking your opponents, digging deep and giving 110 per cent, or partying hard with pizza and pop after the game. The Manitoba Sledgehammers do it all.
Over the course of a weekend tournament, youth sledge hockey teams from the US and Canada meet in Blaine, Minnesota, to battle for supremacy. An adaptation of ice hockey, sledge hockey is designed for players who have physical challenges. But that’s about the only difference. All the fundamentals of the sport—passing, shooting, checking, teamwork—are the same.
Director Sam Vint captures the end-to-end action, as well as quieter moments with parents, coaches and fellow players, providing a glimpse into this little-seen world. On this weekend, people with challenges outnumber the able-bodied, and the kids finally get their chance to just be athletes.
Watch it: nfb.ca/film/tournament-the
A life-long Winnipegger and a proud Métis, Sam Vint has performed various roles in the film and television industry, including research, sound and camera. Sam’s work is deeply immersed in the issues facing Indigenous Canadians. He researched the NFB docudrama We Were Children, the APTN show The Medicine Line, and Going Native, a new production airing soon on APTN.
Sam is currently focusing his attention on writing and directing documentaries, including Alice & Kevin, the story of a mother fighting for services for her disabled son on a remote reserve; and The Ken Ploen Way, about the life and career of one of the greatest players in CFL history.
Sam’s new documentary short The Tournament represents the intersection of his greatest passions—his children, the life-affirming power of sports and telling a great story with an incredible team.