NFB Remembers Filmmaker Gil Cardinal

Métis filmmaker Gil Cardinal (1950-2015)

By Pat Mullen

The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) remembers pioneering doc filmmaker Gil Cardinal. Cardinal, who died Saturday, November 21 after a lengthy illness, leaves an invaluable mark on Canadian cinema. The Métis filmmaker is known for his films with raw subject matter and for his ability to bring critical topics such as substance abuse and suicide to light while exploring greater questions of cultural identity. “Gil was a dear friend, who put so much of himself into his work, and brought a lovely presence and spirit when he was producing and mentoring emerging filmmakers at the NFB studio in Edmonton,” notes Bonnie Thompson, Producer, NFB North West Centre, Edmonton, in a statement from the NFB. “He leaves a huge legacy, with his work with Indigenous communities and his great contributions to the awareness of Indigenous issues in this country.”

Cardinal’s credits include the intimate 1987 documentary Foster Child (available to watch at, which examines his mother’s death and a search for his roots, and 2003 feature documentary Totem: The Return of the G’psgolox Pole (also available at about the Haisla people’s journey to bring a beloved totem pole home.

In memory of Cardinal, the NFB offers a playlist curated by the director. In his essay “The Aboriginal Voice: the National Film Board and Aboriginal Filmmaking through the Years,” Cardinal situates his place in the NFB’s commitment to Aboriginal filmmakers and notes how his passion for film developed from the Challenge for Change days to the present. The playlist includes the films You Are on Indian Land (dir. Mort Ransen, 1969), The Ballad of Crowfoot (dir. Willie Dunn, 1968), and Is the Crown at War with Us? (dir. Alanis Obomsawin, 2002) in addition to Cardinal’s aforementioned films.

The NFB also notes that doc lovers may contribute to the Gil Cardinal Legacy Fund, which has been created by a group of Edmonton filmmakers to assist emerging Indigenous filmmakers wishing to produce a demo for their first film, drama or documentary. Donations to the fund may be sent to the Gil Cardinal Legacy Fund c/o Suite 201, 5305 Allard Way, Edmonton, Alberta, T6H 5X8.

Watch the playlist, including several of Cardinal’s films, here.