Alanis Obomsawin

May 14–26, 2008


Alanis Obomsawin. Photo credit: Jeff Bear. © Storytellers in Motion

Alanis Obomsawin is one of Canada’s most distinguished documentary filmmakers. A member of the Abenaki Nation, whose territory originally extended from New England to Quebec, Obamsawin was born in New Hampshire in 1932 and raised on the Odanak reservation northeast of Montreal. Deeply absorbed in the history, traditional stories, and songs of her ancestors, she began her career as a singer, writer, and storyteller. In 1971 she made her first film, Christmas at Moose Factory, a documentary about Cree children. Since then, she has worked with the National Film Board of Canada to make over 30 documentaries on issues affecting First Nations peoples.

Obomsawin first chronicled conflicts over land and political rights between aboriginal peoples and other communities in Canada with Incident at Restigouche (1984). Her 1993 film Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance, about the Mohawk protest against the expansion of a golf course into sacred burial lands, received international acclaim. Interweaving drawings, songs, music, and interviews, her films are distinguished by their original research, meticulous attention to historical detail, compassion for their contemporary subjects, and insight into the rights and lives of First Nations peoples. In May 2008, Obomsawin receives the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, one of Canada’s highest honors. All films are from Canada and are written and directed by Obomsawin.

Organized by Sally Berger, Assistant Curator, Department of Film.

Special thanks to the National Film Board of Canada; the Consulate General of Canada, New York; Faye Ginsburg, Director, Center for Media, Culture and History, NYU; Audra Simpson, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology and American Indian Studies, Cornell University; and Alanis Obomsawin.


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