With a legacy that stretches back to the early 1970s and consists of over 20 documentary films, Alanis Obomsawin is undoubtedly the most accomplished Aboriginal filmmaker in Canada, if not all of Turtle Island. And at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival, Obomsawin is getting her due becoming the first Indigenous filmmaker to be included in the TIFF Masters Program. The program is described as "the latest from the world's most influential art-house filmmakers," and Obomsawin's colleagues in the class of 2014 include Michael Winterbottom and Jean-Luc Godard.
Obomsawin's film, Trick or Treaty?, premiered at the festival on Friday, September 5. Its subject matter is the 1905 James Bay Treaty, also known as Treaty No. 9, a land-rights agreement whose effects are still being felt today by Canadian aboriginals in northern Ontario.
"This [film] is so badly needed, I think, because people are very ignorant in terms of knowing what a treaty is -- especially Canadians in general," the 82-year-old Obomsawin told CBC News. "If you say 'treaty,' 'Oh, it's an old thing, it's not important.' Well, they're going to find out differently because all the treaties that were made have had terrible consequences to our people and to the country, and people should know that. These things should be taught in school."
Obomsawin's last two films tackled Canadian current events; People of the Kattawapiskak River looks at the housing crisis on the Attawapiskat First Nation, and Hi-Ho Mistahey!, about the Shannen's Dream campaign named after the young Cree activist Shannen Koostachin.