What are the stories omitted from official historical records? Unarchived, which was released today for free streaming from the NFB, considers the tales of people and communities overlooked in the documented life of Canada. Directors Hayley Gray and Elad Tzadok explore how various communities endeavour to preserve their stories on record, offering a fuller and more inclusive history than the narratives most often told. The documentary especially highlights approaches to the archives by LGBTQ+ alt-record keepers, underrepresented South Asian communities, East Asian fact checkers, and First Nations’ communities repatriating stolen items. It’s a thoughtful study in the power of representation, the right to belong, and the right to exist. The absence of archives speaks volumes about this history of inequity in Canada.
“Questions of ownership, access, power, and control arise throughout these stories, though, as Unarchived offers thoughtful considerations of the politics of record keeping,” I wrote while reviewing Unarchived at the Available Light Film Festival earlier this year. “Ironically, the focus on these four stories is an act of curation itself. Unarchived chooses four stories among many, although absences of other perspectives invite further exploration.”
Gray and Tzadok have noted that they distilled the story for Unarchived to four narratives from their original pool of twenty. That’s not an easy task for editing and curating, but in bringing the story to its core, they drew from the lessons offered by interviewees and participants throughout the process. The communities who were ultimately selected represent stories with an intersectional approach, or different facets of record-keeping and restoration echoed throughout the other stories.
“By highlighting historical absences, Unarchived speaks to contemporary narratives of resilience,” I noted in our review. “The film encourages audiences to aspire towards a history that is more democratic and inclusive.”