TJ Cuthand


TJ Cuthand (Plains Cree) is a filmmaker, performance artist, and writer of Plains Cree, Scottish, and Irish descent born in Regina, Saskatchewan, in 1978. He is a member of Little Pine First Nation and has been making short experimental films and videos about sexuality, madness, queer identity, love, and Indigeneity since 1995. He received a BFA in Film and Video from Emily Carr University (2005) and an MA in Media Production from Ryerson University (2015). His moving image artworks, including Madness in Four Actions (2008), Just Dandy (2013), 2-Spirit Introductory Special $19.99 (2015), Reclamation (2018), Extractions (2019), and Less Lethal Fetishes (2020), have been exhibited widely at festivals, museums, and galleries internationally, including MacKenzie Art Gallery, Tribeca Film Festival, imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival, International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, One Flaming Arrow, the National Gallery of Canada, MIX Brasil Festival of Sexual Diversity, Walker Art Center, Vancouver Queer Film Festival, Pleasure Dome, International Film Festival Rotterdam, McIntosh Gallery, Berlinale, Urban Shaman, San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Mendel Art Gallery, Biennale de l’Image en Mouvement, and the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, among others. He is the recipient of numerous awards and accolades, including Best Experimental Film, Female Eye Film Festival (2014), and a REVEAL Award, Hnatyshyn Foundation (2017). Cuthand was featured in the 2019 Whitney Biennial. He shared his disappointment in the controversies of the Museum’s Vice-Chair Warren Kanders’ implication in war profiteering. He has also worked as a curator organizing programs for ImageNation and Video Out (Vancouver), Paved Art (Saskatoon), and Queer City Cinema (Regina). Writing about his practice has appeared in The Globe and Mail, Hyperallergic, Photography Now, and in other publications, including The Cambridge Companion to Queer Studies (2020). His work is in permanent collections at the National Gallery of Canada, Remai Art Gallery, and the University of California at Los Angeles. He lives and works in Toronto, Ontario.

ONLINE SCREENING DATES: January 9 – January 30, 2023

FILMS IN THIS PROGRAM: Medicine Bundle, 10 min, 2020; Extraction, 15 min, 2019
This series is co-selected and presented with COUSIN collective and is generously funded by a Digital Now grant from the Canada Council for the Arts.

Medicine Bundle, 10 min, 2020

Weaving together family narratives and current thoughts on the pandemic, the ethics of representation, and the nature of the sacred, Cuthand discusses a medicine bundle which was used to heal the artist’s great-great-grandfather from a Gatling gunshot wound in 1885, and his grandfather from the Spanish flu in 1918. In this film, Cuthand reflects on the ways that the bear cub spirit contained within the since-buried bundle has continued to protect his family from trauma and diseases brought on by colonization.

Extractions, 15 min, 2019

A personal film about Canada’s extraction industry and its detrimental effects on the land and Indigenous peoples. This film parallels resource extraction with the booming child apprehension industry currently operating in Canada, which is responsible for putting more Indigenous children into foster care than were in residential schools. As the filmmaker reviews his life and how these industries have affected him, he also reflects on having his own eggs retrieved and frozen to make an Indigenous baby.

In the first film of the series Extractions (2019, Canada), Cuthand tackles Canada’s resource extraction industry, but filters it through a deeply personal perspective as he offers narration about his youth as a queer Indigenous kid and considers what resources were offered or denied to him. Even as he reflects on trying to honor the earth and return to old ways of being, he tries to acknowledge how he and his reservation may have benefited from resource exploitation—capitalism and colonialism are pervasive and inescapable forces. Cuthand’s film is both social critique and personal essay, as he jumps between discussions of intergenerational trauma and exploitation to his own reflections on wanting to bring a child into the world. Manitoba has the highest rate of indigenous kids in foster care—and he fears if he has kids and moves there, his kids could be taken by child services. He draws a metaphorical parallel between resource extraction and the deleterious impacts of the adoption industry, comparing the mining of resources to the exploitation of Indigenous women’s bodies for children. Indigenous kids are a resource exploited to siphon money into white pockets, and pain and trauma are often commodified. But does this mean this is the end of life? Or is there a future for Indigenous people? His film ends on a note of optimism—it may seem like the end of life on earth is imminent, but he hopes that there can be a world where indigenous kids can grow. – Katie Duggan

Watch an interview with TJ Cuthand at Bawaadan Collective.

All texts have been modified from the original to reflect TJ Cuthand’s gender.

Stills and artwork for Medicine Bundle (2020) courtesy of Vtape © TJ Cuthand. Stills and artwork for Extraction (2019) courtesy of CFMDC © TJ Cuthand. Screening co-presented with the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre (CFMDC), Vtape and Bawaadan Collective.