imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival

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The imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival is the world's largest Indigenous film and media arts festival,[1] held annually in Toronto in the month of October. The festival focuses on the film, video, radio, and new media work of Indigenous, Aboriginal and First Peoples from around the world. The festival includes screenings, parties, panel discussions, and cultural events.

As an organization, imagineNATIVE supports the creation of new works through their commissioning program, and national outreach to and for Indigenous communities through various off-site programs throughout the year. ImagineNative also commissions industry reports on the status of Indigenous film production in Canada.[2]


The festival was founded in 1998 by Cynthia Lickers-Sage in her capacity as the Aboriginal outreach coordinator for Vtape as a venue for the exhibition of short film and video work by Aboriginal artists. While initially operated through Vtape, the festival subsequently became an independent organization.[3] An early programmer for the festival was Ojibway critic and journalist Jesse Wente,[4] who continued in his role as programmer through 2010.[5] In 2010, Jason Ryle took on the role of the festival's executive director.[6]


The 2001 winner for Best Film went to Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner) by Inuit filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk.[7] This film was the first feature dramatic film in an Indigenous language by an Inuit director.[8]

The 2016 festival focused on Inuit and northern films, with a special focus on films from Greenland.[9] Award winners for that year included Bonfire, a film by Russian Sakha director Dmitry Davydov, for Best Dramatic Feature; Maliglutit by Inuit director Zacharias Kunuk for Best Indigenous Language Production; and Angry Inuk, directed by Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, which won Best Documentary Feature.[10]


NFB/imagineNATIVE Interactive Partnership[edit]

NFB/imagineNATIVE Interactive Partnership was started in 2012 for the commissioning and production of new digital and interactive works by established Indigenous artists. Works produced through this program include De Nort (2012) by the ITWE Collective, Similkameen Crossroads (2013) by Tyler Hagan, Ice Fishing (2014) by Jordan Bennett and Red Card (2016) by Cara Mumford. Ice Fishing was subsequently selected to represent Canada at the 2015 Venice Biennale.[11]

Stolen Sisters Digital Initiative[edit]

The Stolen Sisters Digital Initiative (SSDI) was a 2012 imagineNATIVE artistic commission and national exhibition of four, one-minute digital works by award-winning Canadian Indigenous filmmakers. The commissioned works were created to reflect and respond to the Stolen Sisters, a term adopted by the Aboriginal community and larger social justice organizations of the struggle to find answers for the hundreds of unsolved cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women across Canada. The four commissioned works were:

This was the first time the Festival partnered to present a simultaneous national exhibition. Working with Amnesty International Canada and Pattison Onestop, a national media company, the short videos were exhibited throughout Toronto’s subway system, on display screens in 33 shopping centres across Canada, at the Calgary International Airport, and at the TIFF Bell Lightbox leading up to and during the 2012 imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival.[12][13]

Zwei Indianer Aus Winnipeg[edit]

In 2009, the festival commissioned Zwei Indianer Aus Winnipeg, a short film by Saulteaux filmmaker Darryl Nepinak. The film subsequently screened at the 2009 Berlinale.[14][15]

Embargo Collective[edit]

In March 2008, imagineNATIVE formed the Embargo Collective, an international group of seven Indigenous artists for the purposes of collaborating and challenging one another to create seven new films. Collective members included Helen Haig-Brown, Heiltsuk/Mohawk filmmaker and actress Zoe Leigh Hopkins and Anishnaabe filmmaker Lisa Jackson. The resulting films were subsequently screened at the 2010 Berlinale. Following this, Brown's The Cave was awarded a top-ten recognition at the Toronto International Film Festival, and was screened at the 2011 Sundance Festival, while Jackson's Savage won a 2011 Genie Award for best live action short drama.[16]

In 2014, Embargo Collective II focused on women filmmakers. It was curated by Danis Goulet, and included Hopkins, Blackfoot/Sami filmmaker Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Alethea Arnaquq-Baril and filmmaker Caroline Monnet. Among the films produced that year was Roberta.[6]

Other Programs[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.

Canadian Indigenous Film Producer Mini-Lab[edit]

The Canadian Indigenous Film Producer Mini-Lab was started as a program to develop skills and talent for emerging Indigenous producers. Among its alumni are Cara Mumford, Michelle Latimer and Jeremy Torrie.[17]


  1. ^ "Jesse Wente on the cultural importance of Indigenous film festivals". CBC. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 23 October 2016. Retrieved 5 March 2017. 
  2. ^ "imagineNATIVE Study on Indigenous Film". IsumaTV. Retrieved 5 March 2017. 
  3. ^ Quanz, Katherine (2014). "Preserving Aboriginal Films and Videos: The Archival Practices of Vtape and ISUMATV". In Druick, Zoë; Cammaer, Gerda. Cinephemera : archives, ephemeral cinema, and new screen histories in canada. [S.l.]: Mcgill-Queens Univ Press. ISBN 9780773544475. 
  4. ^ "Indigenous filmmakers need to control storytelling, says Jesse Wente". CBC Radio. Retrieved 5 March 2017. 
  5. ^ " | Metro Morning | About Jesse Wente". 
  6. ^ a b Das, Prerana. "Evolution in Indigenous filmmaking | Toronto Film Scene". Retrieved 5 March 2017. 
  7. ^ McIntosh, Andrew. "Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner)". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 5 March 2017. 
  8. ^ "Atanarjuat/The Fast Runner | National Museum of the American Indian". Retrieved 5 March 2017. 
  9. ^ Zerehi, Sima Sahar. "Greenland films in the spotlight this year at imagineNATIVE festival". CBC News. Retrieved 5 March 2017. 
  10. ^ CBC News. "Inuit, Arctic films big winners at 2016 imagineNATIVE festival". CBC News. CBC. Retrieved 5 March 2017. 
  11. ^ National Film Board, Government of Canada (25 October 2016). "Canada News Centre - Métis filmmaker Cara Mumford's Red Card chosen for NFB/imagineNATIVE Interactive Partnership program. Peterborough-based artist will work with the NFB's Digital Studio in Vancouver". Retrieved 5 March 2017. 
  12. ^ "STOLEN SISTERS | ARTORONTO". Retrieved 5 March 2017. 
  13. ^ "imagineNATIVE's Stolen Sisters Digital Initiative". NationTalk. Retrieved 5 March 2017. 
  14. ^ "Darryl Nepinak | National Museum of the American Indian". Retrieved 5 March 2017. 
  15. ^ "Winnipeg Film Group : History". Retrieved 5 March 2017. 
  16. ^ "Special short film program spotlighting Canadian Aboriginal women filmmakers to close imagineNATIVE 2014 | National Screen Institute - Canada (NSI)". National Screen Institute - Canada (NSI). 14 October 2014. Retrieved 5 March 2017. 
  17. ^ "OSM Member Jeremy Torrie Selected for Canadian Indigenous Film Producer Mini-Lab | On Screen Manitoba". Retrieved 5 March 2017. 

External links[edit]

Official website