imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival

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The imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival is an indigenous film and media arts event, held annually in Toronto in the month of October, with the first festival in 1999.

About imagineNATIVE[edit]

The imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival is an international festival in film, video, radio, and new media. Each fall, the festival presents a selection of Indigenous works from around the globe. The festival's screenings, parties, panel discussions, and cultural events attract and connect filmmakers, media artists, programmers, buyers, and industry professionals.


Founded by Cynthia Lickers-Sage with the help of Vtape and other community partners, imagineNATIVE is now regarded as one of the Indigenous film and media arts festivals in the world.


imagineNATIVE focuses on new and innovative film, video, radio, and new media works. Programming includes annual retrospectives, curated programmes, and presentations of significant groundbreaking and legacy works.

imagineNATIVE plays an important role in the dissemination and exportation of Indigenous works by promoting and exhibiting artists’ films, videos, radio, and new media artworks to Canadian and international festivals, markets, distributors, and broadcasters and by facilitating sales and acquisitions.

imagineNATIVE provides Indigenous filmmakers, media artists and curators with professional development opportunities in the form of workshops and other activities geared to enhancing creative and professional skills.

Artistic Policy[edit]

imagineNATIVE considers film, video, radio and new media works made by Canadian and international Indigenous artists. In programming work for imagineNATIVE, the festival strives to represent a diversity of ideas, themes and genres in its programming, seeking representations of subjects that would not necessarily be made available through the mainstream forms of media. The festival prioritizes works that balance unique and new perspectives expressed within the content of the work, cultural and social relevance, a creative approach to form characterized by innovative expression, distinctive style, personal vision, as well as the practice of crossing aesthetic borders in terms of genre, medium and emerging content platforms. Priority is given to works that have not yet been broadcast in Canada. International and Canadian premiere status is also a consideration. Selection criteria for the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival is based on:

  • Artistic excellence;
  • Innovation in representations, content, aesthetic form and genre;
  • Relevance of the work to the Indigenous community and to general Canadian audiences as a whole;
  • Relevance of the piece in terms of form and content, with consideration to emerging themes and issues that present themselves during the programming process, which create an artistic framework for the overall program
  • A key member of the creative team (director, writer, producer) must self-identify as Indigenous.

imagineNATIVE is committed to a fair and democratic selection process. All works that meet eligibility requirements detailed in our submission process are considered, short-listed, and selected by the Programming Committee. Juries, consisting of community members including, at minimum, one indigenous member and one imagineNATIVE board member, choose winners for the festival's annual awards. imagineNATIVE’s Jury Guidelines state: “We especially support works that are innovative in form and content – ones that are creating a new aesthetic language and that contain new ways of telling stories, specifically from an Indigenous perspective.”

The Programming Team, a group of peers and Festival employees, appreciates the dedication of all the artists who feel that their work compliments the artistic mandate, policy and vision of imagineNATIVE in the presentation their work. The programming process at imagineNATIVE is an involved and challenging one, many factors are considered when selecting works. Decisions are made by consensus, with considerable thought and discussion during programming deliberations. If a film is not programmed, it is not a comment on individual achievements, nor does it reflect the artistic value of the work. Outside of imagineNATIVE's eligibility terms, artistic and programming policies, the programming process also includes considerations such as available programming slots, scheduling, thematic arcs, and representing the diversity of artistic and cultural perspectives from Indigenous nations in Canada and around the world.

Other Events by imagineNATIVE[edit]

imagineNATIVE Film + Video Tour[edit]

The imagineNATIVE Film + Video Tour provides regional and remote communities access to Indigenous-made film and video from Canada and abroad. In addition to bringing a Festival-favourite feature presentation to these communities, the Tour encourages youth to explore the creation of film and video through a Youth-focused film and video program, discussion and hands-on video-making workshops. The video-making workshops assist and lead youth to create and edit short videos using readily-available technology such as cellphones and webcams. The videos are featured on imagineNATIVE’s website and open to public voting, sending the winner to Toronto for the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival.

indigiFLIX Community Screening Series[edit]

The indigiFLIX Community Screening Series, presented by imagineNATIVE, is hosted in cultural and community centres to reach a broader First Nations, Métis, Inuit and non-Native audience beyond the annual Festival in Toronto. Films are selected from past imagineNATIVE Festivals in an effort to keep these important films alive and accessible to the Indigenous community. imagineNATIVE is committed to supporting artists through payment of industry-standard artist fees for all works presented.

imagineNATIVE Commissions[edit]

Embargo Collective[edit]

In March 2008, imagineNATIVE formed the Embargo Collective, an international group of seven Indigenous artists who have been collaborating and challenging one another to create seven new films.

Each of the artists chosen has an impressive body of work, demonstrating exceptional talent and vision. Each has a different focus in media arts: documentary, fictional narrative and experimental. And each represent a diversity of Indigenous nations. Their artistic achievements aside, these artists have been chosen for their enthusiasm for collaboration and their willingness to be open to challenge. They represent a younger generation of contemporary media artists who are at the forefront of the changing global landscape of Indigenous cinema and media arts. Inspired by filmmaker Lars Von Trier’s documentary The Five Obstructions—in which Von Trier dared his mentor to remake his own 1967 film five times with a different set of rules imposed each time—imagineNATIVE has been facilitating the Embargo Collective, encouraging these artists to push their creative boundaries by asking them to construct a set of limitations for one another.

While the initial goal was to demonstrate how essential the collaborative process is to film, a far more profound and intimate result materialized over 20 months: As the filmmakers shared their experiences, inspired one another and created work together, a collective spirit was born. What you are about to see are the fruits of that collaboration, a true testament to what film can be when artists come together to create

Stolen Sisters Digital Initiative[edit]

Co-presented by Pattison Onestop ( and Amnesty International Canada

The Stolen Sisters Digital Initiative was produced by imagineNATIVE with funding from Canada Council for the Arts

The Stolen Sisters Digital Initiative (SSDI) an artistic commission and national exhibition of four, one-minute digital works by award-winning Canadian Indigenous filmmakers celebrating and honouring Indigenous women and their contributions as strong, successful and valued members of society.

SSDI, produced by imagineNATIVE, is co-presented by Amnesty International Canada and Pattison Onestop, a leader in public display advertising and creative content presentations. This innovative digital artistic project is the first time the Festival has partnered to present a simultaneous national exhibition. SSDI will be exhibited throughout Toronto’s subway system on more than 300 Pattison Onestop digital subway platform screens, on 254 digital monitors in 33 English language shopping centre display screens across Canada (see locations below), at the Calgary International Airport, and at the TIFF Bell Lightbox leading up to and during the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival, October 15 – 21, 2012.

The SSDI project started as a call by imagineNATIVE and its partners to Canada’s Aboriginal artistic community to conceive of a one-minute video piece creatively reflecting and responding to the Stolen Sisters, a term adopted by the Aboriginal community and larger social justice organizations of the struggle to find answers for the over 500 official (and arguably more) unsolved cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women across Canada. Four works by award-winning artists from different regions of Canada were selected through a juried process.

External links[edit]

Official website