NFB Announces Indigenous Action Plan

Trick or Treaty? (dir. Alanis Obomsawin, 2014)
Photo from the production, courtesy of the NFB

By Pat Mullen

The National Film Board of Canada announced today a new three-year plan to redefine its relationship with Indigenous filmmakers in Canada. The long-in-the-works project comes as a response to the concerns of Indigenous artists facing inequity in Canadian film production and to the recommendations set out by the Truth and Reconciliation Committee. The 33-point plan features four main areas: Institutional Transformation, Industry Leadership, Production, and Distribution, Collection Management and Education. These efforts and calls to action build upon the NFB’s long history as a leader for advancing images by and about Indigenous communities in Canada.

“The NFB acknowledges its enormous debt to the first generation of Indigenous filmmakers at the NFB, first and foremost Alanis Obomsawin,” said Claude Joli-Coeur, Government Film Commissioner and Chairperson of the NFB, in a statement from the Board. “Alanis joined the NFB in 1967 and fought against an often hostile environment to create an unparalleled body of work that has fundamentally recast understandings of Indigenous realities and relationships with settler society. The struggles of Alanis and others to claim a space for Indigenous voices within the NFB, on Canadian screens and within the broader Canadian production industry constitute the foundations for the commitments we are making today.”

Highlights of the plan include a commitment to achieving representational parity in the NFB workforce by 2025; an immediate commitment to ensuring 15 percent of production spending for projects directed by Indigenous filmmakers and a commitment to working with Indigenous partners to develop protocols and guidelines in areas including production, distribution, archival access/reuse for images and projects containing Indigenous images and themes.

In addition to Alanis Obomsawin’s significant career with the NFB that includes landmark films such as Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance, Trick or Treaty? and We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice, the NFB has taken leadership steps for improving Indigenous self-representation on screen including the milestone Challenge for Change and Indian Film Crew years that began in 1967 and 1968, respectively. These years produced acclaimed films including The Ballad of Crowfoot by Willie Dunn and You Are on Indian Land by Michael Kanentakeron Mitchell (although previously credited to Mort Ransen). Recent productions at the Board by and about Indigenous, Inuit, and Métis filmmakers include Angry Inuk by Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, The Road Forward by Marie Cléments, this river by Erika MacPherson and Katherena Vermette, and Birth of a Family by Tasha Hubbard.

The full plan by the NFB is available here.