Legendary First Nations activist and NFB filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin is being honoured for her leadership in socially engaged cinema as the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) features the world premiere of her short film Honour to Senator Murray Sinclair as part of the special retrospective “Celebrating Alanis,” and presents Ms. Obomsawin with its Jeff Skoll Award in Impact Media.
The festival is also presenting world premieres of Terril Calder’s Meneath: The Hidden Island of Ethics and Rosana Matecki’s Saturday Night in its Short Cuts section, in a powerful lineup of short filmmaking at TIFF by Indigenous and women creators, produced by the National Film Board of Canada (NFB).
About Honour to Senator Murray Sinclair and Alanis Obomsawin
As the Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Senator Murray Sinclair was a key figure in raising global awareness of the atrocities of Canada’s residential school system. With determination, wisdom and kindness, Senator Sinclair remains steadfast in his belief that the path to actual reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people requires understanding and accepting often difficult truths about Canada’s past and present. In Honour to Senator Murray Sinclair, Obomsawin shares the powerful speech the Senator gave when he accepted the WFM-Canada World Peace Award, interspersing the heartbreaking testimonies of former students imprisoned at residential schools. The honouring of Senator Sinclair reminds us to honour the lives and legacies of the tens of thousands of Indigenous children taken from their homes and cultures, and—with hope—points us to a better future.
A member of the Abenaki Nation, Obomsawin has directed 53 films to date in a career spanning 54 years—chronicling the lives and concerns of First Nations people and exploring issues of importance to all.
Curated by Jason Ryle, “Celebrating Alanis” will feature a selection of films from throughout her distinguished career, including a number of her landmark works.
Presented as part of the TIFF Tribute Awards ceremony, the Jeff Skoll Award in Impact Media recognizes leadership in creating a union between social impact and cinema.
Meneath: The Hidden Island of Ethics
Meneath: The Hidden Island of Ethics dives deeply into the innate contrast between the Seven Deadly Sins (Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Pride and Envy) and the Seven Sacred Teachings (Love, Respect, Wisdom, Courage, Truth, Honesty and Humility), as embodied in the life of a precocious Métis baby.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario, and now based in Toronto, Métis artist Terril Calder utilizes darkly beautiful stop-motion animation to lay bare Baby Girl’s inner turmoil with unflinching honesty. Meneath (“island” in Anishinaabemowin) charts a challenging journey as Baby Girl contemplates her path to Hell, but it also leaves room for others to consider their own journeys and reflect on our shared legacy. Calder’s tour-de-force unearths a hauntingly familiar yet hopeful world that illuminates the bias of colonial systems.
Featuring the voice of Gail Maurice and edited by Jeff Barnaby, Meneath: The Hidden Island of Ethics is produced by Jelena Popović for the English Program Animation Studio, with Jason Ryle as consulting producer. The executive producers are Michael Fukushima (Animation Studio) and Robert McLaughlin (Digital Studio).
As winter’s pristine white blanket covers the silent streets of Montreal, Rosana Matecki, a Canadian filmmaker of Venezuelan-Polish origin, recalls how the collective mourning of Leonard Cohen’s passing gave her a sense of belonging to the city for the first time. She crosses paths with two Latin American immigrants who also seek an intimate connection with their adoptive city. Magaly is a grocery store cashier in her early fifties; Juan, a painter in his mid-seventies. Inspired by those who find freedom in movement, they gather inside a small ballroom on a Saturday night with other middle-aged souls. For a few hours, they dance, surrendering to the warm embrace of intimacy and belonging.
A short documentary essay on solitude, filmed in Spanish and narrated by Matecki, Saturday Night offers a poetic and bittersweet snapshot of aging in an urban setting, viewed through the lens of dance.
The film is produced by Kat Baulu and Ariel Nasr and executive produced by Annette Clarke for the Quebec and Atlantic Studio’s Reimagining My Québec shorts series.