The Documentary Organization of Canada says filmmaker Michelle Latimer has agreed to return an award presented to her earlier this month.
The organization says it requested Latimer relinquish its BMO-DOC Vanguard Award after her claims of Indigenous identity were called into question last week.
The DOC Institute bestows its Vanguard award on a mid-career filmmaker who “embodies creativity, social consciousness and leadership.” The award included $40,000 of in-kind production services and a $1,000 cash prize.
As recently as a few weeks ago, Latimer was regarded as one of this year’s breakout Canadian filmmakers, partly on the rise of “Inconvenient Indian,” a documentary that won two awards at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.
But a recent CBC investigation challenged Latimer’s claims she was of Algonquin, Metis, and French heritage, from the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg and Maniwaki area in Quebec, and raised issues over her self-identification.
The filmmaker has said she “made a mistake” in naming Kitigan Zibi as her family’s community before verifying the linkage.
Her response sent shockwaves through Canada’s film community which had helped raise Latimer’s profile as an Indigenous creator.
Earlier this week, the National Film Board confirmed it will pull “Inconvenient Indian” from distribution and upcoming screenings that included the Sundance Film Festival.
Latimer also resigned from her roles on “Trickster,” the Indigenous CBC-TV series she co-created and directed.
The DOC Institute says its leaders have been “watching closely and assessing the recent revelations regarding Michelle’s relationship with the Indigenous community.”
“After careful consideration the DOC Institute has asked Michelle to return the award, which she has agreed to do,” it said in a statement.
It added that documentary filmmakers must “uphold the ethical principles of non-fiction filmmaking, in order to create narratives that are authentic and truthful” and that the process requires “transparency, accountability, and a commitment to representation.”
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