Thomas King sits in the back of a car while making an important observation on how we have to be careful of the stories we tell and those we’ve been told. Once it’s been told, we can never call it back. Throughout the film he tells us the story of the coyote and the ducks, which stands as an allegory for the European settlers taking increasingly more from the Native people of North America. History is not the past, history is the stories we tell about the past, they explain how we we got here.

King narrates Michelle Latimer‘s important documentary ‘Inconvenient Indian‘, examining the ongoing colonization of Indigenous peoples in North America. The film is also based on King’s award-winning study, The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America.

People don’t care about the truth anymore. Legends are there to keep the memory alive. But are these legends even based on any truth at all? Voiceless objects from the past are presented to us in museums and Indigenous peoples have always been depicted in the most wrongful ways by popular media. Through the use of archival footage, reenactments, interviews and music, Latimer (‘Trickster‘ – also premiering at TIFF20) is able to show the beauty of Indigenous peoples. Artifacts we consider a history that’s been wiped out or twisted in such a way is just there to entertain colonizers. Modern Indigenous peoples are reclaiming their heritage by keeping traditions and their language alive, but society keeps shaming them while pushing these Indigenous people further away from their land, creating even more obstacles for current and future generations to overcome.

The idea of the Indian is non-threatening. That idea also doesn’t take cases to court. That idea doesn’t complain about what’s happening to their land.” In a series of very direct and urgent subjects, Latimer brings these issues to our attention, without holding back. She brings focus to traditional hunting methods, a sense of community, tattooing techniques and visual art to give a platform to new voices in desperate need of being heard and seen, instead of constantly being left out of the conversation. Well-known figures like visual artist Kent Monkman and filmmaker Alethea Arnaquq-Baril (‘Angry Inuk‘) are among her subjects, but so many more important figures show there’s much more than what mainstream media chooses to ignore.

These ways of making outsiders aware of Native American cultures is at times wholesome and encouraging, but ‘Inconvenient Indian‘ also points the camera at North America’s way of burying the truth, showing triggering footage of police brutality, the crimes of which these colonizers continue to steal land and resources, and the non-existent cultural appropriation when it comes to events or commercial holidays like Halloween, where outsiders think it’s okay to dress up in Indigenous cultural attire for “fun”. 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.

Inconvenient Indian‘ is essential viewing. Latimer finds a way to amplify her activism for the rights of Indigenous peoples in North America, with a beautifully shot documentary that holds a message we can no longer choose to ignore.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Inconvenient Indian is screening as part of TIFF20:
Saturday, September 12 at 4:45pm and 5:15pm @ TIFF Bell Lightbox
Sunday, September 13 at 6pm (online platform)
Thursday, September 17 at 5pm @ TIFF Bell Lightbox
Tickets are available HERE

TIFF20 Review – ‘Inconvenient Indian’

Reviewed online (as part of Toronto International Film Festival), September 11, 2020. Rating: TBC. Running time: 90 min.

PRODUCTION: A 90th Parallel Productions, National Film Board of Canada production. Producers: Stuart Henderson, Justine Pimlott, Jesse Wente. Executive producers: Gordon Henderson, Anita Lee.

CREW: Director/screenplay: Michelle Latimer. Editor: Katie Chipperfield. Cinematography: Chris Romeike. Music: Brennan Mercer.

WITH: Thomas King (narrator).

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