Welcome to Kanata Program
Welcome to Kanata

Welcome To Kanata Touring Program
Works by First Nations, Métis and Inuit Artists

The Ottawa International Animation Festival is proud to present Welcome to Kanata, a touring package of contemporary animated films by Canadian Aboriginal filmmakers curated by award-winning filmmaker and Director of the National Indigenous Arts Coalition, Ariel Smith.

Free for educational institutions and organizations dedicated to the support and promotion of Indigenous culture, Welcome to Kanata is available now for screening on DVD or HD Quicktime formats. Download a PDF of the detailed programme guide here.

This touring program is made possible with the help of a grant from the Canada Council.

Total Running Time: 80 min

Christiana Latham | The Jingle Dress | 2010

Terril Calder | Canned Meat - The Whole Damn Can | 2009

Jesse Gouchey and Xtine Cook | Spirit of The Bluebird | 2011

Lisa Jackson | The Visit | 2009

Bear Witness | Death by Vibration | 2006

Nodin Wawatie | Nodin (Wind) | 2010

Alethea Arnaquq-Baril | Sloth | 2010

Diane Obomsawin | Here and There | 2006

Jackie Traverse | Two Scoops | 2008

Alexus Young | Where We Were Not, Part I: Feeling Reserved, Alexus' Story | 2011

Nance Ackerman and Alan Syliboy | Little Thunder | 2009

Neil Christopher | Amaqqut Nunaat (The Country Of Wolves) | 2011

Welcome to Kanata: We Are Not Your Tigerlily

by Ariel Smith

From Disney's Little Hiawatha (1937) to Peter Pan (1953) and Pocahontas (1995); cartoon representations of Indigenous peoples have largely been based on racist notions. Mainstream animated films have contributed to a dehumanization of Aboriginal peoples by ingraining offensive pan-Indian stereotypes in to the minds of audiences, such as the noble savage, the Squaw and the Indian princess. Indigenous artistic expression troubles and complicates the colonial gaze and long-standing meta-narratives thus contributing to Indigenous empowerment and self-determination. Indigenous filmmakers working in animation within the nation state of Canada are challenging misrepresentations, and rejecting identities prescribed and projected on to them through mainstream cinema. They are creating works that are groundbreaking in content, form and methodology. Welcome To Kanata celebrates and showcases the talents of First Nations, Métis and Inuit artists through a selection of shorts which are distinct from each other in technique, subject, and execution. This thematic and aesthetic diversity is intentional and reflective of our diversity as Indigenous nations. It pushes back against the harmful misconception that Indigenous peoples in Canada are somehow all the same. Nothing could be further from the truth and this myth serves to discredit and undermine our rights to self determination and sovereignty.

Storytelling has been an important part of life for many Indigenous nations. Our stories affirm our identities and pass on traditional knowledge and world views. Animation lends itself well to the reinterpretation of traditional cultural stories as many involve super-natural or magical elements. This is well illustrated in pieces such as Neil Christopher's Amaqqut Nunaat (Country of Wolves) where two Inuit brothers, after becoming lost seal hunting, happen upon a strange land of shape-shifting wolf beings.

Christiana Latham's The Jingle Dress uses cutout and stop-motion techniques in a retelling of how the healing Anishinabe dress and dance originated. In Little Thunder Alan Syliboy's vibrant paintings inspired by both petroglyphs and traditional Mi’kmaq quill weaving designs, are brought to life in a lively and humorous take on the Mi’kmaq legend of The Stone Canoe.

Other works in Welcome to Kanata critique colonial violence and detail realities of contemporary Aboriginal life. Spirit of the Bluebird is a moving tribute to Gloria Black Plume, a Niitsitapi mother, grandmother and auntie who in 1999 was brutally beaten to death by two men in a Calgary, Alberta alley. At the time the film was made co-director Xtine Cook lived in a house located behind the very alley where Gloria drew her last breath. Cook sought permission from the Blackplume family to make the film and involved them thoroughly throughout the process. Heartbreak and rage is palpable and visceral in the voiceovers of Gloria's family members, having been recorded in Cook's garage only a few feet away from where Blackplume's body was found. As the family recount memories we watch the graceful animation of a spray painted mural, created by co-director and graffiti artist Jesse Gouchey. The mural depicts a bluebird in flight over the prairies. The freedom and peace exuded through this imagery is a sharp contrast to the brutality and injustice that is the Canadian epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous women.

Two Scoops by Jackie Traverse utilizes a raw, naive childlike drawing style to describe her lived experience as a sixties scoop survivor. The Canadian government has a long history of removing Indigenous children from their families against their will, through both the residential school and child welfare systems.

In Where We Were Not, Part I: Feeling Reserved Alexus' Story, Alexis, a two spirited woman from Saskatchewan discloses her personal experience with yet another all too common phenomenon of neo-colonial violence experienced by Indigenous peoples in Canada, Starlight Tours. This practice, occurring mainly in prairie provinces, involves police arresting Native people, driving them out to a remote location, taking their shoes and coat, and leaving them to walk home in the snow. The death of Cree teenager Neil Stonechild in 1990 brought attention to a number of cases in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan sometimes referred to collectively as the Saskatoon freezing deaths. The Saskatoon Police Service was accused of taking Stonechild to the northwest section of the city and abandoning him in a field on a night where temperatures dropped to −28°C.

Less overtly political works featured in Welcome To Kanata include Bear Witness' Death by Vibration a melancholic and lyrical experimental film combining scratch animation and time lapse live action.

Charming and engaging, The Visit by Lisa Jackson on one night for a Cree family when a UFO makes contact on their reservation.

Quebec based animator Diane Obomsawin employs her unique whimsical style in the delightfully comical, autobiographical Here and There. Obamsawin uses humour to defy stereotypes and challenge preconceived notions held regarding Aboriginal peoples lives through a detailing of her childhood which was spent largely in Europe, moving back and forth between France and Canada.

Alethea Arnaquq-Baril's Sloth a sardonic critique of “Inuk as Artifact” in a parody of colonial anthropological documentation of Inuit.

In Nodin digital rotoscoped live action footage of Nodin Wawatie breakdancing articulates this “bboy from the bush's” love of hip hop along with pride in his Algonquin language and traditions.

The longest running piece in the programme is Canned Meat - The Whole Damn Can by Terril Calder. It is an exquisitely crafted, poetic stop motion confession of one woman's trauma, insecurities and self loathing. Calder does not anchor the film's narrative on a subject or expression of Native identity instead focusing on the protagonist's internal dialogues surrounding relationships and self worth.

The works featured in Welcome to Kanata reside within a larger canon of Indigenous cinematic expression whose very existence serves as a radical act of resurgence. The uncensored expression of First Nations, Metis and Inuit artists exemplifies that the colonial nation building project of Canada did not succeed in assimilation or extermination. By controlling our own images, telling our own stories we claim space and enact a form of visual sovereignty which is inherently related to our empowerment and autonomy as Indigenous peoples.

For more information or to book a screening date, please contact the OIAF office:

+email: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

+tel 613.232.8769