Loretta Todd is a Métis Cree Canadian film director, producer, activist, storyteller, and writer. She belongs to what has been classified as the second wave of aboriginal Canadian film directors, and has been internationally recognized for her non-fiction work, which strives to express the lived experienced of aboriginal peoples and communities through their own voices.
Loretta was born to George and Judy Todd, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada in the 1960s. Todd's father, a member of both the Métis and Cree nations of Northern Alberta, held various jobs in order to support their eight children. Loretta recalls a childhood filled with many family gatherings and various forms of artistic expression (dancing, storytelling, artistry, singing, and craft work). Her experiences have also been shaped by her father's alcoholism and the poverty that their family experienced. Todd lived in the residential school system for a year, a program sponsored by the Canadian federal government and ran by various churches, aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their families and culture for the purpose of assimilation with Euro-centric values, language, and ways of living.
Loretta left home at the age of twelve to set out on her own. She took on various jobs to support herself and became pregnant as a young teenager. She got in touch with her passions for writing and film-making while attending community college. In the 1980s Todd's enrollment at Simon Fraser University's film school made her the first aboriginal woman to attend. For the first year she held a full-time job with the Canadian federal government while attending university, both her professional and student work centered around her passion for raising awareness about social inequalities that aboriginal communities face and social justice initiative that are aimed at improving the lived experiences for generations of aboriginal peoples to come.
Todd's film style actively challenges traditional documentary film form, since she recognizes how films she consumed while growing up, which were produced by the National Film Board of Canada, reproduced harmful racist stereotypes about aboriginal peoples.
"With the 1960s and 1970s Canadian documentary I had grown up with, there was a lot of stationary camera work, and as a Native person, I felt that the camera was peering in at us- that the films offered a space that allowed people to laugh at us."
As she learned film theory and technique, her work became increasingly politically charged with an activist mindset. Todd engages with the film form in a way that allows her to bring light to problematic aspects of traditionally documentary style and the oppression that she has personally experienced and is part of the present reality for many aboriginal peoples within Canada. Todd's work seeks to shift the narrative about aboriginal peoples from a discourse of victim-hood and suffering, to resiliency and the ways in which individuals and communities are working to overcome the pain that is a result of systemic and continuous violence perpetrated against them. Todd is still actively involved with aboriginal activist work, even as her career has reached international acclaim she still directs minimal budget films for aboriginal groups.
As a pioneer of the industry, Todd has influenced the evolution of Vancouver as a hub of aboriginal film production. She has also served as a role model and mentor for other Canadian aboriginal women to join the industry. Her daughter Kamala Todd has chosen to pursue a career similar to her mother's. They have worked together on the Cree children's program, Tansi! Nehiyawetan: Let's Speak Cree! Kamala has also made two documentaries and has collaborated with the National Film Board and the city of Vancouver on the Our City, Our Voices project. Todd is also a cultural scholar, writing scholarly articles and chapters for books, lecturing at educational institutions, contributing to art shows.
- Halfway House (1986)
- Breaking Camp (1989)
- Robes of Power (1989)
- Blue Neon (1989)
- The Storyteller in the City (1989)
- My Dad's DTs (Unfinished narrative film)
- Day Glo Wrestler (1990)
- Chronicles of Pride (1990)
- Eagle Run (1990)
- The Healing Circle (1991)
- Taking Care of Our Own (1991)
- The Learning Path (1991)
- Hands of History (1994)
- Voice-Life (1995)
- No More Secrets (1996)
- Forgotten Warriors (1997)
- Today is a Good Day (1999)
- The People Go On (2003)
Awards and nominations
- Rockefeller Fellow, 1996
- ImagineNATIVE Lifetime Achievement Award
- Taos Mountain Award for Lifetime Achievement
- Sundance Scriptwriters Lab
- Silverman, Jason. "Uncommon Visions- The Films of Loretta Todd." Senses of Cinema. October 2002.
- Silverman, Jason. "Loretta Todd". Historica Canada. April 2007.
- Library and Archives Canada. Celebrating Women's Achievements. September 2010.
- Woods, Eric. "A Cultural Approach to a Canadian Tragedy: The Indian Residential Schools as a Sacred Enterprise." International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society. 26.2 2013. doi:10.1007/s10767-031-9132-0
- Dowell, Kristin L. "Sovereign Screen: Aboriginal Media on the Canadian West Coast." University of Nebraska Press. 2013.