On face value, you'd be hard pressed to find commonality between the story of a Native hip-hop MC in northern Saskatchewan and the fly-fishing traditions of Taiwan's indigenous island people. Or early 1970s Native American armed activism and a contemporary indigenous drag queen. Yet Toronto's imagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival somehow does, with another strong program this year.
At a time when niche film festivals cater to every interest out there, few have the style and sense of identity of imagineNATIVE, which began earlier this week. And there is much to catch before it concludes on Sunday.
A central highlight is Saturday evening's world premiere of the new documentary co-directed by acclaimed filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk, Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change, featuring Inuit elders talking in detail about the effects of the warming climate on their lives in the Arctic. The film is also scheduled to stream live on www.isuma.tv.
Other highlights include the following films, all of which screen at the Al Green Theatre.
Wapawekka Part of Friday's program of shorts, this film follows a native hip-hopper on a father-son fishing and hunting trip. Superbly filmed by director Danis Goulet and starring members of her own family, the story maintains a quiet pace, allowing us to feel the lack of communication between the dad and his uninterested teenage son. Yet it takes a surprising, enigmatic turn, showing that the bond between the two is much stronger than thought. A beautiful film. Friday, 7 p.m.
A Kuroshio Love Story Screening Saturday afternoon as part of the festival's spotlight on the indigenous people of Taiwan, Kuroshio Love Story documents the traditions of the fishing and farming culture and the challenging search for a spouse. Directed by Maraos, an indigenous filmmaker from the region, it's an intimate look at one of the most beautiful corners of the world. Saturday, 3 p.m.
Dance to Miss Chief The festival's earnestness gets upended Saturday by the series of shorts titled Dancing Queenz! Focusing on "berdache" (or "two-spirited") transgender people and gays in the native community, the program ends with Kent Monkman's satirical music video featuring his drag-queen alter ego Miss Chief Eagle Testickle. Saturday, 5 p.m.
A Good Day to Die This film changes the tone again on Sunday. It's a powerful documentary focusing on the life of Native American activist Dennis Banks and his involvement in the 1972 seizure of the Bureau of Indian Affairs building in Washington, D.C. and the 1973 standoff at Wounded Knee. It revisits an era of dramatic, armed political confrontation. Sunday, 3 p.m.