With over five decades of experience in the industry, Alanis Obomsawin has become one of Canada’s most prestigious documentary filmmakers of all time. Her storytelling revolves around Canada’s Indigenous peoples, whose stories are often unheard, or worse—misunderstood by the public.
East Yorkers filled up the Urban Indigenous Education Centre’s auditorium on March 23 for a screening of Obomsawin’s 50th documentary, Our People Will Be Healed.
The 85-year-old filmmaker’s latest project shines a spotlight on the Norway House Cree Nation, one of the largest First Nations communities in Manitoba. In the film, Obomsawin follows the story of a well-funded N-12 school called the Helen Betty Osborne Ininiw Education Resource Centre, named after an Indigenous girl who was abducted and murdered in 1971.
The film focuses on the efforts of the Cree community to restore its culture by educating the younger generation. It gives the audience a glimpse into what it looks like to embrace one’s culture and heal as a community.
Obomsawin said she is pleased to see that Canada is continually improving in terms of properly including Indigenous peoples in its narrative.
“More and more Canadians are now learning about the true history,” she said during a discussion held after the screening. “We should also recognize that the history books were horrifying for many, many years.”
Obomsawin has won numerous awards for her body of work, which includes Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance; Trick or Treaty?; and The People of the Kattawapiskak River.
After many years of storytelling, Obomsawin shared the secret behind her success.
“The main root of things is to be able to listen,” she said.
Theresa Cutknife, a second-year student at the Centre for Indigenous Theatre, attended the screening.
“(Obomsawin) has been one of the forefront people who’ve been making sure that we’re heard and seen,” Cutknife said. “That just inspires me, in whatever I do, to bring that forward.”