#tbt ‘Our Dear Sisters’

Alanis Obomsawin in Our Dear Sister

By Pat Mullen

On the heels of yesterday’s announcement that Alanis Obomsawin is among the 700+ talents invited to join the Academy, it’s only fitting to look back upon her remarkable career. In a small act of jumping the gun, however, last week’s Throwback Thursday post mined the NFB archive to present Obomsawin’s first film Christmas at Moose Factory to mark the Board’s new commitment to increase representation for Indigenous filmmakers within the organization. There’s plenty of NFB films to go around, though, and the 1975 Challenge for Change film Our Dear Sisters by Kathleen Shannon (executive producer of the NFB’s Studio D wing) is a portrait of Obomsawin in the early years of her career.

Our Dear Sisters profiles Obomsawin at the age of 41 and Shannon talks with the filmmaker about her career as a singer, artist, and mother. Obomsawin’s frank observations of cultural differences/intersections illustrate the voice behind some of the most significant advances for self-representation in Canadian film, while the images of her on tour with her daughter and interacting with her while the camera rolls are additional proof of her unsung contributions to feminist filmmaking in Canada. The scenes of Obomsawin performing and singing, moreover, offer another facet of the character behind incendiary films like Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance and We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice in this valuable profile of the director. Obomsawin always gets due credit for breaking barriers for Indigenous filmmakers, but arguably less so when it comes to women and film.

“I can’t imagine a feminist cinema without talking about Alanis Obomsawin,” says programmer Danis Goulet in Kiva Readon’s essay ‘Unfinished Business’ from POV #105. “In the history of Indigenous cinema, women are the grandmothers. They are the grandmothers. They are the drivers.”

And since we’re heading into the long weekend for Canada 150, use the extra time to watch the full collection of Obomsawin’s films at the NFB.

Our Dear Sisters, Kathleen Shannon, provided by the National Film Board of Canada