Alanis Obomsawin © Scott Stevens
Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance, 119 min, 1993
In July 1990, a dispute over a proposed golf course to be built on Kanien’kéhaka (Mohawk) lands in Oka, Quebec, set the stage for a historic confrontation that would grab international headlines and sear itself into the Canadian consciousness. Director Alanis Obomsawin—at times with a small crew, at times alone—spent 78 days behind Kanien’kéhaka lines filming the armed standoff between protestors, the Quebec police and the Canadian army. Released in 1993, this landmark documentary has been seen around the world, winning over a dozen international awards and making history at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it became the first documentary ever to win the Best Canadian Feature award. Jesse Wente, Director of Canada’s Indigenous Screen Office, has called it a “watershed film in the history of First Peoples cinema.” – NFB
My Name Is Kahentiiosta, 29 min, 1995
This short documentary by Alanis Obomsawin tells the story of Kahentiiosta, a young Kahnawake Mohawk woman arrested after the Oka Crisis' 78-day armed standoff in 1990. She was detained 4 days longer than the other women. Her crime? The prosecutor representing the Quebec government did not accept her Indigenous name. – NFB
Christmas at Moose Factory, 13 min, 1971
This lyrical short documentary marked the directorial debut of legendary Abenaki director Alanis Obomsawin. Filmed at a residential school in northern Ontario, it is composed entirely of drawings by young Cree children and stories told by the children themselves. Listening has been at the core of Obomsawin’s practice since the very beginning. “Documentary film,” she said in a 2017 interview, “is the one place that our people can speak for themselves. I feel that the documentaries that I’ve been working on have been very valuable for the people, for our people to look at ourselves … and through that be able to make changes that really count for the future of our children to come. – NFB
I am not going to make a film to please an audience. I make a film to make changes and to have recognition for the people. – Alanis Obomsawin
Throughout her life, well before taking up the camera, Alanis was an activist, taking a stand against injustices perpetrated against others. She witnessed a changing world that continues to evolve today; a world very different to the one she grew up in and to the one in which she began her film career. – Jason Ryle
Read a profile of Alanis Obomsawin at the NFB.
Watch 50+ films by Alanis Obomsawin at the NFB.