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VIU alum shares Indigenous-made films watch list

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Author: J’net Ayayqwayaksheelth, Director of Indigenous Relations and Community Engagement, National Film Board of Canada

J’net Ayayqwayaksheelth shares three recent favourites

VIU alum J’net Ayayqwayaksheelth (One who gives away and still stands tall) works for the National Film Board of Canada as the organization’s Director of Indigenous Relations and Community Engagement. In this role, she provides leadership and cultural awareness within the NFB to implement organizational change and transformation at all levels of the institution. In honour of Indigenous History Month, we asked J’net to share some favourite films. These films are all free to watch on the National Film Board's website.


In honour of National Indigenous Peoples Day (June 21) and National Indigenous History Month, I’m delighted to introduce readers to three Indigenous-created films that are dear to my heart.

 A cartoon baby sits at a school desk with colouring supplies

Meneath: The Hidden Island of Ethics

Directed by Terril Calder, this film is a 19-minute, stop-motion animated film that follows a precocious Métis baby girl as she contemplates her path to Hell. It’s an important conversation about life for Indigenous people living between worlds.

Meneath dives deeply into the innate contrast between the Seven Deadly Sins (Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Pride and Envy) and the Seven Sacred Teachings (Love, Respect, Wisdom, Courage, Truth, Honesty and Humility). The baby girl character’s inner turmoil is laid bare with unflinching honesty. Convinced she’s soiled and destined for Hell, she receives Anishinaabe Teachings from Nokomis that fill her with strength and pride and affirm a path towards healing. Calder’s tour-de-force unearths a hauntingly familiar yet hopeful world that illuminates the bias of colonial systems.

One of the foremost Métis media artists practising in Canada today, Calder is a multi-disciplinary creator born in Fort Frances, Ontario, and currently living in Toronto. Her Métis lineage is from the Red River Settlement and the Orkney Cree Métis. While her current practice is focused on stop-motion projects, which she writes, directs, crafts and animates, Calder also has an extensive background in performance art, visual art and media art.

Her installation with a similar name, Meneath: The Mirrors of Ethics, recently won the prestigious Immersive New Voices Award at the Tribeca Festival in New York. The film version of Meneath has also received a variety of awards, including the Animation and Indigenous awards at the 2022 Yorkton Film Festival and the Trickster Award at the 2022 Skoden Indigenous Film Festival in Vancouver.

Tanya Taqaq's face surrounded by smoke or fog

Ever Deadly

This is a newly released feature documentary, co-directed by Tanya Tagaq and Chelsea McMullan.

Part concert film (recorded in one long take), part collection of stunning sequences shot on location in Nunavut, Ever Deadly is unique. It documents the power of music to express feelings and help us heal from a difficult past.

This immersive, visceral music and cinema experience features avant-garde Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq and was created in collaboration with award-winning filmmaker Chelsea McMullan. The documentary explores Tagaq’s transformation of sound with an eye to colonial fallout, natural freedom and Canadian history.

In Ever Deadly, we witness Tagaq’s intimate relationship with the Nuna – the Land – a living, breathing organism present in all forms of her improvised performances.

The film won the Audience Choice Award for Best Canadian Documentary Feature at the 2022 Yellowknife International Film Festival and has been picked up for distribution in the US by Kino Lorber.

Arctic Song is a breathtaking short that uses animation to showcase the rich culture of Inuit.

The film was co-directed by Germaine Arnattaujuq (Arnaktauyok), Neil Christopher and Louise Flaherty, and is based on the graphic work of Arnattaujuq.

In a mere six minutes, Inuit artist, storyteller and co-director Germaine Arnattaujuq (Arnaktauyok) depicts Inuit creation stories in all their glory. Arctic Song tells stories of how the land, sea and sky came to be in beautifully rendered animation. Telling traditional Inuit tales from the Iglulik region of Nunavut through song (music and performance by Celina Kalluk), the film revitalizes ancient knowledge and shares it with future generations.

The film is a Taqqut Productions/NFB co-production and was shown widely at film festivals all over the world. Awards include Best Animated Film at the 2022 Nunavut International Film Festival and Best Canadian Short Film at the 2022 International Montreal First Peoples Festival.

Screenshot of the Indigenous cinema homepage

Did you know: the National Film Board of Canada’s Indigenous Cinema page offers free streaming of more than 400 new and classic titles from the NFB’s collection of films by Indigenous directors.

In addition, we’re currently spotlighting two Indigenous channels on the platform:

  • Transmission of Indigenous Knowledge looks at Indigenous knowledge, practices and traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation since time immemorial. This 18-film collection includes three titles by legendary director Alanis Obomsawin, as well as Jennie Williams’ Nalujuk Night, an award-winning glimpse into an exhilarating and sometimes terrifying Nunatsiavut tradition.
  • Indigenous-Made Animation Films is a selection of 22 animated short films made by Inuit, First Nations and Métis filmmakers at the NFB. Highlights include such recent award winners as Terril Calder’s Meneath: The Hidden Island of Ethics and Asinnajaq’s luminous Three Thousand.


J’net Ayayqwayaksheelth
Director, Indigenous Relations and Community Engagement, National Film Board of Canada

J'net Ayayqwayaksheelth


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