Film festival of the week: ImagineNATIVE

The Indigenous cinema showcase kicks off on October 17 with Darlene Naponse’s Falls Around Her

Hey, you know our weekly screening spotlight? Well, we’re expanding it to include film festivals, because this city has so many of those that we figured the passionate programmers deserved their say, as well. So here’s a chance to learn a little more about that cinematic event you’ve been meaning to check out.


ImagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival, launching October 17 at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema (506 Bloor St. W), then moving to the TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King St. W) from October 18 to 21.


Jason Ryle says imagineNATIVE “has been the one consistent thing in my professional adult life,” having been a member of the board and the programming team since 2002. He became the festival’s artistic director in 2010. “It’s been an incredible eight years so far – it’s enriched my life and soul more than I could have imagined. So many beautiful people telling beautiful stories.”


“We are an Indigenous-artist focused festival,” Ryle says, “meaning we only show media art works that have been created by Indigenous directors, producers and screenwriters. imagineNATIVE is committed to a greater understanding by audiences of Indigenous peoples, cultures and artistic expressions.”

This year’s festival opens with Darlene Naponse’s Falls Around Her (October 17, 7 pm, Hot Docs), starring Tantoo Cardinal as an Anishinaabe musician who returns home to Northern Ontario (read Samantha Edwards’s TIFF review) other features include Angelique’s Isle (October 18, 12:45 pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox 2), a drama starring Julia Jones and Charlie Carrick as a couple struggling to survive on Lake Superior during the 1845 copper rush, and Larissa Behrendt’s documentary After The Apology (October 20, 12:15 pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox 3), about the lasting impact of residential schools on Indigenous culture.


“It’s truly unlike many festival experiences,” Ryle says. “Over the years we have enhanced our presentation of Indigenous-made digital and interactive media and multi-media art exhibitions, which culminates in our incredibly popular Art Crawl on the Friday of the Festival. It’s a welcoming, inclusive environment – about half of our audience is non-Indigenous, and an incredibly diverse one at that. We try as best as we can to use our funds to bring in Indigenous artists to represent their works – they make the Festival so special and unique.

“There are Q&As for all but one screening this year, and we have three special master classes with Alanis Obomsawin, Tasha Hubbard and Marjorie Beaucage,” Ryle continues. “We also have our Industry Days: five days of free panels geared toward Indigenous screen content creators. I guarantee that anyone who experiences the films at imagineNATIVE will come out transformed in some capacity.”


“This is the ultimate Sophie’s Choice question for programmers,” he says. “Clearly we want people to see as many films as possible and there’s always such an incredible diversity of works at imagineNATIVE, from comedies to experimental features. But to honour your question, I would tell people to not miss Toyon Kyyl (The Lord Eagle) (October 18, 6:30 pm, TIFF Lightbox 2) by Eduard Novikov, from the Sakha nation in Siberia. It has all the elements you want in a film – humour, drama and the unexpected – and also something, sadly, you will never get to see at mainstream cinemas in this country. The Sakha Republic has emerged as the hotbed of indie film production in Russia and we’ve been seeing so many incredible works coming from this region in recent years. It also has a 100 per cent Indigenous cast and crew!” | @normwilner

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