Your Film Festival Guide to Indigenous Cinema in Toronto

By Lindsay Monture

It’s an exciting time for lovers of native cinema! With the Toronto International Film Festival under way, and the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival coming up in October, cinephiles will have plenty of chance to catch some world-class Indigenous films this fall. Here is your guide to must-see films playing right now at TIFF, as summarized by the festival’s programmers.

*Casualties of Modernity directed by Kent Monkman (Cree, Canada)
“Miss Chief Eagle Testickle is a charitable socialite who tours a hospital specializing in the treatment of dying art traditions. Drawing on the Cree archetype of the Trickster, Monkman orchestrates a campy-queer soap-opera mash-up that critiques the Eurocentric art world.” – Danis Goulet

*Clouds of Autumn by Trevor Mack (Tsilhqot’in, Canada)
“The carefree childhood existence of a brother and sister is torn apart when she is forced to attend a Residential School far from home. Singular visual interpretations infuse co-director Trevor Mack’s family history with a slowly shifting tone that evokes loss and love. “- Kathleen McInnis

Embrace of the Serpent by Ciro Guerra (Colombia)
“Tracking two parallel odysseys through the Amazon three decades apart, this visionary adventure epic from Colombian director Ciro Guerra offers a heart-rending depiction of colonialism laying waste to indigenous culture.” -Diana Sanchez

*Fire Song by Adam Garnet Jones (Cree/Métis, Canada)
“Shane, a gay Anishinaabe teenager in Northern Ontario, is struggling to support his family in the aftermath of his sister’s suicide. If he fails, he will be forced to choose between his family’s home and his own future. “- Steve Gravestock

Ixcanul by Jayro Bustamante (Guatemala)
“In this dreamlike fusion of documentary and fable, two young, impoverished Mayan lovers escape from their servitude on a remote Guatemalan coffee plantation and attempt to make their way to the United States. “ -DS

*Kokom by Kevin Papatie (Anishinaabe, Canada)
“In this resonant tribute to his grandmother, Kevin Papatie presents the history of the Anicinape people as a cyclical journey that begins and ends with resilience.” – DG

Magallanes by Salvador del Solar (Peru)
“An aged Peruvian taxi driver, formerly an aide to a feared military officer in the bloodiest days of government repression during the Shining Path insurgency, unexpectedly re-encounters a young indigenous woman who was brutally victimized by his superior.“ – DS

*Mekko by Sterlin Harjo (Seminole Creek, USA)
“A Muscogee ex-con living on the streets of Tulsa becomes embroiled in a fateful conflict with a local thug, in director Sterlin Harjo’s intriguing fusion of gritty realism and Indigenous legend.” – Jesse Wente

*Mia’ by Amanda Strong (Métis, Canada) and Bracken Hanuse Corlett (Wuikinuxv, Canada)
“Transformed into a salmon, an isolated Indigenous street artist travels through decayed cityscapes to ancient forests. This sublime mixed animation asserts the power of cultural memory and Indigenous presence in urban lands.”- DG

*Mobilize by Caroline Monnet (Algonquin, Canada)
“A journey by canoe into the city creates a dynamic interconnection between natural and urban spaces. In this evocative short set to a hypnotizing soundtrack by Inuk artists Tanya Tagaq, director Caroline Monnet celebrates the fierce resourcefulness of Indigenous people in adapting to the dizzying changes of the past century.” – DG

*Nulla Nulla by Dylan River (Australia)
“With guidebook in hand, an eager white cop straight out of training shows up for his first posting in remote Australia – and is immediately dropped into the deep end by his veteran partner. In this comical fish-out-of-water take, director, Dylan River finds levity in the complexities of race relations and community policing. “- DG

The Pearl Button by Patricio Guzmán (Chile)
“The great Chilean filmmaker Patricio Guzmán chronicles the history of the indigenous peoples of Chilean Patagonia, whose decimation by colonial conquest prefigured the brutality of the Pinochet regime.” -DG

Spear by Stephen Page (Yugambeh, Australia)
“A young man reconciles ancient tradition with the modern, urban world in this debut feature from Stephen Page, artistic director of Australia’s renowned Bangarra Dance Theatre.”
-Jane Schoette

*Also programmed at imagineNATIVE.

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