Toronto Film Festival – Revolt against colonialism as a dominant method

Susan Borg in conversation with Kristen Watty

Alanis Obomsawin has been making documentaries about the condition of the indigenous population in Canada since the 1970s. (Photo by Alliance/Impex | Chris Young)

A major retrospective of Aboriginal filmmaker Alanis Obomsween: For Susan Borg, one of the highlights of the Toronto Film Festival in 2021. Our film editor was also impressed by the series “Panthers” about the Polynesian minority in New Zealand.

great topic in Toronto International Film Festival According to our film editor Susan Borg, this is how indigenous peoples and colonial heritage are treated in various countries around the world.

Indigenous life facts of Kananda

Perhaps the clearest sign of this is the retrospective the festival has dedicated to American-Canadian director Alanis Obomswein, born in 1932. They themselves belong to the Abenaki people and have been making documentaries on the condition of the indigenous population since the 1970s.

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“Over the years, an incredible work has been created, which records in terms of life in the various tribes in Canada, but also tells about the consequences of centuries of discrimination,” emphasizes Borg.

Abuse and humiliation in foster care

I was most influenced by the 1986 film Richard Cardinal, which tells the story of a Metis boy, the descendant of a European fur trader and an Aboriginal woman. This boy hanged himself with his adoptive parents when he was seventeen and by that time he had already gone through 28 foster families and homes.

“The film tells the story of this young man’s abuse and humiliation,” Borg said. The production thus exposed enormous shortcomings in the Canadian social system.

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Our film editor also finds the New Zealand miniseries “Panthers” wonderful, set in the 1970s and about the cultural awakening of New Zealand’s Polynesian population “without much like a history book”.

An atmosphere of coldness and rebellion

At the heart of the series is a student who comes from a middle-class Māori family, and has become more and more politicized as the story progresses through the discrimination experienced by his community:

“So he and a few friends founded the Polynesian Panther Party in 1971, inspired of course by the example of the Black Panthers in the United States, who later fought against the deportation of the Polynesian population, for more rights and awareness of their problems in general.”

With a lot of wit and speed, the series managed to create an atmosphere of youthful coolness and rebellion, and it was “incredibly sexy.” In New Zealand, the film Panthers appeared on television shortly before the film festival and broke all possible records for the audience there. “We hope you’ll see them in Germany one day,” says our film editor.

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