Now Streaming: Alanis Obomsawin Comes Full Circle in ‘Jordan River Anderson: The Messenger’

Photo courtesy of the NFB


By Pat Mullen

Join master filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin as she completes a major body of work with Jordan River Anderson: The Messenger. Released today for free streaming from the National Film Board of Canada, Jordan River Anderson completes Obomsawin’s six-film cycle on the rights of Indigenous youths. This major series of NFB works includes some of Obomsawin’s most acclaimed films, most notably 2016’s We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice. The film chronicled the fight of Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, as she fights on behalf of Indigenous children through Jordan’s Principle, a proposed law named after Anderson created to ensure the Crown prioritized treatment of children on reserves rather than delay care over jurisdictional issues. (Watch the first five films here.)

The Messenger looks at the legacy and impact of Jordan’s Principle. Obomsawin features touching footage of the young Anderson, as well as new interviews with his parents as they recall their experience of seeing their child become a victim of bureaucracy. The Messenger again devotes ample time to the heroic Blackstock while giving voice to children’s whose lives have been saved by a fight for which she is often the tireless spokesperson. The film marks a notably optimistic turn by Obomsawin and carries on the hopefulness she conjured at the end of 2018’s entry in the series Our People Will Be Healed, encouraging audiences to carry on the fight for Indigenous rights and celebrate when efforts bring results.

“While Obomsawin holds Canada’s institutions accountable to improve on their ability to correct a history of injustice, she also ends the story of Jordan River Anderson with the note of optimism it needs,” I wrote while reviewing the film at TIFF last year. “His death is not in vain as the film shows the lives of families who have benefited from Jordan’s Principle and the nation finally roused from its slumber.” Read more about the film in this backgrounder and interview with Obomsawin.

Watch Jordan River Anderson: The Messenger below:

Jordan River Anderson, The Messenger, Alanis Obomsawin, provided by the National Film Board of Canada