The ImagineNATIVE Media and Arts Festival, the world’s largest presenter of Indigenous screen content, is kicking off in Toronto from October 22nd to 27th. Ahead of the opening, our editorial team has rounded up their must-see films and installations taking place on the movie screens at this year’s festival.
Blood Quantum (2019)
Thursday, October 24th | 9:30pm
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From Mi’kmaq director Jeff Barnaby, known for previous ImagineNATIVE films such as Rhymes for Young Ghouls (2013), comes Blood Quantum (2019), an Indigenous horror film set on a Mi’kmaq reserve in Atlantic Canada. As the world outside the isolated community is ravaged by a zombie virus, the residents of the reserve remain unscathed, mysteriously immune to the virus that wreaks havoc on their neighbours. As refugees fleeing the undead begin to pour in from the surrounding cities, the community must fight for their lives against zombie invaders and make decisions on how to welcome—or not welcome—those seeking asylum. At once an apocalyptic thriller and cultural critique, Blood Quantum features an ensemble cast including names such as Michael Greyeyes, Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers and Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs.
– Emily Henderson, Contributing Editor
A Wall is a Screen
Wednesday, October 23rd | 7:30pm
Beginning at EJ Pratt Library, Queen’s Park Crescent
A Wall Is A Screen—a one-night, site-specific, peripatetic guided city tour and film festival—promises to renew the viewer’s relationship with the built environment when it returns to Toronto and imagineNATIVE for the first time since 2017. The project originally began in Hamburg, Germany, in 2003, aiming to reclaim some of the inner city’s history, which had been effaced by commercial, cookie-cutter development, by projecting films onto walls and alleyways that corresponded to the specific urban space. The festival has since traveled to 23 countries. Although the films and locations are kept secret until the night-of, expect this edition to uncover forgotten histories of Toronto, and to imagine new ways of inhabiting it.
– Michael Stevens, Managing Editor
The Sun Above Me Never Sets (2019)
Sunday, October 27th | 6:00pm
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The directorial debut of Sakha filmmaker Lyubov Borisova, The Sun Above Me Never Sets takes place on an unpopulated island in the sea north of the Sakha Republic in Russia. The film follows Altan, a young man hired to work and live on the island for a month. He soon encounters Baibal, an elder who has come with the hope of being buried beside his deceased wife. Against the rich arctic landscape in summer, the two men make quick friends and embark on a journey of discovery under 24 hours of daylight. It looks to be a powerful story told with humour and charm. Winner of the Audience Choice Award for Best Film in the Moscow Film Festival earlier this year, I’m excited to catch the film during its North American premiere at imagineNATIVE.
– John Geoghegan, Senior Editor
gathering across moana
Trinity Square Video | 401 Richmond St, Suite 121
A Space WINDOWS | 401 Richmond St
Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre | 32 Lisgar St
Spread over three venues, gathering across moana brings together a roster of fourteen artists from across Canada and New Zealand to explore shared ideas of place, technology and culture. Emerging from connections made during a residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts and Creativity lead by Dr. Julie Nagam this summer, several of the works on display are collaborative, foregrounding a cross-continental exchange of ideas and approaches to various mediums. Highlights include: animation work by Glenn Gear; three-dimensional scans of sage by Niki Little; an installation by Kereama Taepa featuring sculpture, projection, VR and sound; a series of clay projections by Rachael and Hana Rakena; and Bruno Canadien’s first projection-based work.
– Britt Gallpen, Editorial Director
For more information on gathering across moana, visit the ImagineNATIVE Festival Guide.
Thursday, October 24, 2019 (as part of Art Crawl)
7:30 pm: Curator + Artist Talk, TSV
7:40 pm: Performance by Tsēmā Igharas, TSV
8:30 pm: Curator + Artist Talk, CFMDC
Friday, October 25th | 1:30pm | Short Program: imagineNATIVE Originals
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Kristina Fithern-Stiele’s film Breathe is one of three imagineNATIVE Originals screening their world premiere event on Friday, October 25, 2019. The short drama explores a young woman’s struggle to understand her personal identity as an Indigenous woman in the modern world. Fithern-Stiele uses the physical experience of a woman swimming as a metaphor for the struggle to keep one’s head above water when coming to terms with who we are as Indigenous people.
Fithern-Stiele hales from Canmore, AB, and is of Teslin Tlingit background. She acted as a director for Of Broken Vessels (2018), a writer for the films Pluck (2018), and Fell (2018), and as the production designer for Red Water Valley (2018). Kristina graduated from the University of Victoria with a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing, and from SAIT Polytechnic with a Diploma in Film and Video Production.
– Napatsi Folger, Contributing Editor
The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open (2019)
Wednesday October 23rd | 5:45pm
Sunday, October 27th | 10:45am
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Two Indigenous women, unknown to each other, and from very different backgrounds, meet by chance. What follows is a complicated extended conversation between these two women as they navigate their similarities, differences and shifting power dynamics.
Co-director Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers (Blackfoot, Sámi) is a filmmaker, writer, and actor. Raised on the Kainai Nation (Blood Tribe Reserve), she is now based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Tailfeathers was the 2018 Sundance Institute Merata Mita Film Fellow and is an alumnus of the Berlinale Talents Lab.
– Laura Stanley, Online Editor