Unique conference examines Indigenous cinema


Illustration by Christine Sioui Wawanoloath (2009)

Cancelled for the past two years because of the global pandemic, the Revisioning the Americas Through Indigenous Cinema conference is returning to Montreal and Kahnawà:ke as part of the Montréal First Peoples Festival. Since its creation in 2009, the international symposium has questioned the role of Indigenous film experiences and visions in what the Americas and, more broadly, our world and can become, from a perspective of resurgence and decolonized futures.

Faculty of Arts and Science Professor Isabelle St-Amand is the lead organizer for the event along with her colleagues Dr. André Dudemaine (Terres en vues), and Marion Konwanénhon Delaronde (Language and Cultural Center Kanien’kehá:ka Onkwawén:na Raotitióhkwa). The theme this year is Film and Sustainability.

“This year we are inviting scholars, students, filmmakers, producers, other professionals of Indigenous cinema, and local community members to gather in Montreal and Kahnawà:ke in order to reflect on sustainability and crisis from a diversity of approaches and perspectives,” Dr. St-Amand says. “We welcome conversations and inquiries inspired by two broad and interrelated questions, namely: What does Indigenous cinema sustain? What sustains Indigenous cinema?”

The conference brings together 20 to 30 researchers, students, directors, producers, and other professionals in Indigenous film and media, along with members of the local Indigenous communities.

“The conference sets out to build bridges between the academic community and the world of Indigenous film and media in order to develop relevant, cutting-edge theoretical reflections on these multidimensional practices and productions in film, media, and television and on the web,” Dr. St-Amand (French Studies and Languages, Literatures, and Cultures) explains. “This decade-long work has connected me with scholars and filmmakers of Indigenous cinema across the world, and these connections have benefited my students and Queen’s community in different ways.”

Funding for the event comes from several sources including the Faculty of Arts and Science Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Indigenization (EDII) Fund and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

“At this time, we are particularly focused on strengthening our work with indigenous communities and community members,” says Elliot Chapple, Director of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Indigenization. “Queen’s is committed to centering Indigenous voices and bringing Indigenous frameworks and methodologies to the forefront rather than continuing to merely add Indigenous content. This conference, which builds on previous work Dr. St-Amand has done, is a model of the kind of initiatives that Queen’s wishes to support.”

Dr. St-Amand says organizers are well underway with the cinema conference program, with guests including renowned directors Sterlin Harjo, Alanis Obomsawin, several Maori and Mohawk filmmakers, scholars from Canada, Chile, Germany, and New Zealand, as well as a hybrid (Live/Zoom) trilingual panel featuring Kim O'Bomsawin with Maori director Briar Grace Smith and Mixteca filmmaker Ángeles Cruz. The public is invited to attend the event, Connecting and Contending through the Creative Process, Tuesday, August 16 starting at 9 am. Register in advance: https://queensu.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJIvdOmrrzwpHdBI6E9mULCYq4MvHhpNQcSc

Shortly after registering, participants will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

The public is also invited to attend a live panel discussion on Zoom Tuesday, August 16 starting at 9 am. Kim O’Bomsawin (Abenaki filmmaker), Ángeles Cruz (Mixteca filmmaker), Briar Grace-Smith (Māori filmmaker) will join the discussion on Connecting and Contending through the Creative Process.

“The outcomes and benefits within our university can be seen through the participation of students in the conference, its organization and related events, publications, research funding, and lectures and presentations by national and international film scholars and professionals at Queen’s University,” Dr. St-Amand adds.

Learn more about the conference on the Montreal First Peoples Festival website and learn more about the conference program on the Department of French Studies webpage.