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Spirit Bear and Children Make History Image

Spirit Bear and Children Make History

Sept. 27 at 3 PM PDT

VIFF Talks | Online (Screening + Livestream)

Suitable for all ages and important viewing for everyone, this event starts with a screening of the stop motion short that sees Michif animator Amanda Strong and Gitxsan child rights activist Cindy Blackstock adapt Spirit Bear’s books for the screen.

Here, they tell the tale of Spirit Bear hopping a train to Ottawa and banding together with children and animals alike to end injustice against First Nations children. In doing so, they honour the true story of Jordan River Anderson, a young Cree boy who could not leave the hospital as the Canadian government refused to pay for his at-home care because he was a First Nations child. Named in his memory, Jordan’s Principle is a child-first principle ensuring that First Nations children have the public services they need when they need them.

After the film, Strong and Blackstock will be joined in conversation by Alanis Obomsawin, the revered Abenaki documentary filmmaker whose 53rd film, Jordan River Anderson, The Messenger, won Best Canadian Documentary at last year’s VIFF. In a conversation moderated by Canada Council President Jesse Wente (Ojibwe), they will discuss Jordan’s legacy and the Caring Society’s ongoing efforts to ensure that First Nations children grow up safe, healthy and proud.

Running Time: 60 min.

Session Participants

Amanda Strong is a Michif interdisciplinary artist with a focus on filmmaking, stop motion animation and media art. She is based on the unceded Coast Salish territories also known as Vancouver, BC. Strong received a BAA in Interpretative Illustration and a Diploma in Applied Photography from the Sheridan Institute, and her work focuses on themes of reclamation of Indigenous histories, lineage, language and culture. Strong is the Owner/Director/Producer of Spotted Fawn Productions Inc.

Jesse Wente is an Anishinaabe writer, broadcaster, speaker and arts leader. Born and raised in Toronto, his family hails from Chicago and the Serpent River First Nation. An outspoken advocate for Indigenous rights and First Nations, Métis and Inuit art, he was named the first Executive Director of the Indigenous Screen Office in 2018 and appointed Chair of the Board of the Canada Council for the Arts in July 2020.

A member of the Gitxsan First Nation with 25 years of social work experience in child protection and Indigenous children’s rights. Dr. Blackstock’s research interests are Indigenous theory and the identification and remediation of structural inequalities affecting First Nations children, youth and families. Her promotion of culturally based and evidence informed solutions has been recognized by the Nobel Women’s Initiative, the Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, Frontline Defenders and many others.

Alanis Obomsawin was born in New Hampshire and raised in Quebec. A singer, songwriter, printmaker and engraver, she has also written and directed many documentary features, including Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance, We Can't Make the Same Mistake Twice and Our People Will Be Healed. Her 53rd documentary, Jordan River Anderson, The Messenger, won Best Canadian Documentary at the 2019 Vancouver International Film Festival.

This event is available to watch across Canada via VIFF Connect. A replay of the talk will be available on VIFF Connect for the duration of the Festival for VIFF Connect subscribers who miss the live stream.


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