Less than a week after releasing a statement addressing questions surrounding her Indigenous ancestry, Canadian filmmaker Michelle Latimer has announced she is leaving CBC’s Trickster, the acclaimed series she co-created and directed.
“It’s with a heavy heart that I am resigning from Season 2 of Trickster. When I first read the novels that inspired Trickster, I was struck by the powerful tale of a family coming together to overcome adversity. I envisioned this story as a television series that would celebrate Indigenous talent and amplify Indigenous voices. I have listened to my community and feel that stepping away from the production is the appropriate course of action,” Ms. Latimer said in a statement posted on Facebook Monday. “I stand by who I am and by my family’s history, but I also understand what is being asked of me. I recognize my responsibility to be accountable to the community and my fellow artists, and that is why I have made this decision.”
Last week, Ms. Latimer publicly apologized for naming the Kitigan Zibi community in western Quebec as part of her family history before “doing the work to formally verify this linkage.”
“It’s been an honour to have spent the last three years working to bring this story to the screen. Many people came together, both behind and in front of the camera, to realize Trickster,” Ms. Latimer added in her new statement. “I’m so proud of what we achieved – together we created something special and ground-breaking, and I will always be grateful for this experience. I fully support the continuation of this story and wish the production nothing but the best moving forward.”
In interviews leading up to the fall releases of both CBC’s Trickster and her documentary Inconvenient Indian, Ms. Latimer said that her father is French-Canadian and that her mother is Algonquin and Métis, raised as a Catholic in Northern Ontario away from her community in Kitigan Zibi. Ms. Latimer herself grew up in Thunder Bay, and today splits her time between there and Toronto.
“I understand that there is an important difference between having this ancestry verified by the community of Kitigan Zibi and having it named and validated by members of my own family,” Ms. Latimer wrote Dec. 17, adding that she has reached out to Kitigan Zibi elders and community historians, and hired a professional genealogist. “I apologize and hold myself accountable for the impact this has had on the community of Kitigan Zibi.”
The statement sent shockwaves throughout the Canadian arts community, with two Trickster producers, Danis Goulet and Tony Elliott, resigning from the series late last week.
“What emerged has, directly or indirectly, had an impact on the producers, cast, crew, writers, author and many Indigenous communities,” CBC spokesperson Chuck Thompson said in a statement to The Globe and Mail on Monday. “Given the circumstances, we believe Michelle’s decision to step away from the show is the right one, and we respect her for having taken this undoubtedly difficult step.”
Mr. Thompson added that the network and production company Sienna Films will “engage with community members and other key stakeholders to determine the future of Trickster. Whatever the outcome of those conversations, CBC’s commitment to telling Indigenous stories with the many creative Indigenous storytellers will not waver.”
Trickster is based on a trilogy of novels by Eden Robinson and was renewed by the CBC for a second season before the six-episode first season premiered this past October. Scripts are currently written or are in the process of being written, with a production start date for spring 2021. A few hours before Ms. Latimer’s statement went live on Monday afternoon, Ms. Robinson published her own Facebook post in which she said she was “embarrassed” and “felt like a dupe.”
“Going forward, I’m going to donate all further author royalties from the Trickster series to the Haisla Language Authority for the preservation of the Haisla language,” Ms. Robinson wrote. “As messy and real as our lives can get, I don’t know how to walk in the world without my people, and I pity anyone who doesn’t understand what we have.”
Ms. Latimer’s award-winning documentary Inconvenient Indian is set for a 2021 release through the National Film Board. On Monday, a representative from the NFB told The Globe that the organization is currently “engaging with, and listening to, the Indigenous filmmaking community and our partners,” and “will have more to say in the coming days.”
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