Top 10 Indigenous Movies/TV Shows

Cozy up with these incredible, moving television shows and movies featuring Indigenous artists, actors, creators, producers, filmmakers and directors. 

  1. Trickster

It’s the northwest coast like you’ve never seen it before. For everyone at RAVEN who supported the Nations along the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline route, this insightful series will provide context for the layered stories and complex identities that make up Indigenous coastal communities like the one creator Eden Robinson is from. 

The series is embroiled in controversy surrounding the unverified claims of Indigenous identity by the director: that should not take away from the incredible performances and work by many Indigenous contributors to the production. Author Eden Robinson (Haisla) has issued this statement: “Going forward, I’m going to donate all further author royalties from the Trickster series to the Haisla Language Authority for the preservation of the Haisla language.” 

From CBC Television: “Based on the bestselling trilogy of novels by Eden Robinson, Trickster tells the story of Jared, an Indigenous teen struggling to keep his dysfunctional family above water. Jared holds down an after-school job and cooks ecstasy on the side to support his separated parents – partying mom Maggie, who self-medicates an undiagnosed mental illness, and unemployable dad Phil, who has a painkiller addiction and a new girlfriend. But when Jared starts seeing strange things — talking ravens, doppelgängers, skin monsters — his already chaotic life is turned upside down. This is Indigenous Gothic – spirits, ancient magic, deadly rites of passage – in a coming of age story unlike any you’ve ever seen.”

Via CBC Television

  1. Indian Horse

RAVEN’s friend and mentor Leena Minifie (Haisla Nation) was instrumental in working with the producers of Indian Horse on an innovative social impact campaign crafted to accompany the film. Check out The Next 150 for a brilliant companion resource guiding educators and anyone living as a settler on native land. 

From the Indian Horse website: “An adaptation of Ojibway writer Richard Wagamese’s award-winning novel, this moving and important drama sheds light on the dark history of Canada’s boarding schools or Indigenous Residential Schools and the indomitable spirit of aboriginal people. In the late 1950’s Ontario, eight-year-old Saul Indian Horse is torn from his Ojibway family and committed to one of the notorious Catholic Residential Schools. In this oppressive environment, Saul is denied the freedom to speak his language or embrace his Indigenous heritage while he witnesses horrendous abuse at the hands of the very people entrusted with his care. Despite this, Saul finds salvation in the unlikeliest of places and favourite winter pastime — hockey. 

His talent leads him away from the misery of the school, eventually leading him to the Pros. But the ghosts of Saul’s past are always present, and threaten to derail his promising career and future. Forced to confront his painful past, Saul draws on the spirit of his ancestors and the understanding of his friends to begin the process of healing.”

  1. Skindigenous

From the Skindigenous Website: “Skindigenous is a 13-part documentary series exploring Indigenous tattooing traditions around the world. Each episode dives into a unique Indigenous culture to discover the tools and techniques, the symbols and traditions that shape their tattooing art. In this series, the art of tattoo becomes a lens for exploring some of the planet’s oldest cultures and their unique perspectives on life, identity, and the natural world.”

  1. Kayak to Klemtu

Kitasoo Xai’Xais Nation stood strong as foundng partners in the Yinka Dene Alliance; then, stood as one of 7 Nations who fought hard to win the court battle that stopped the Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline from despoiling BC’s north. Here, witness life in Klemtu, the remote fishing community that stood up to Big Oil : and won. 

From Canadian Film Day: “When a prominent Kitasoo/Xai’Xais activist passes away, his 14-year-old niece Ella (Blaney) embarks on a kayak journey to take his ashes home to Klemtu. It’s a race against the clock as Ella tries to make it back in time to give a speech protesting a proposed pipeline that would cross Indigenous land.

Ella is joined by her aunt, cousin and grumpy uncle (Cardinal), as the four paddle with all their might through the Inside Passage and past the shores of the Great Bear Rainforest. Join this family on the adventure of a lifetime that reflects on the importance of protecting our lands for future generations.

Winner of the 2017 imagineNATIVE Audience Choice Award.”

  1. AWAKE, A Dream from Standing Rock

Many of you witnessed the Standing Rock protests erupt to bring the Indigenous-led environmental justice movement to international prominence. This series takes you inside the seminal days and unfolding story of Standing Rock to profile the courage, community and tenderness at the heart of the movement to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. 

From AWAKE: “The Water Protectors at Standing Rock captured world attention through their peaceful resistance. While many may know the details, AWAKE, A Dream from Standing Rock captures the story of Native-led defiance that forever changed the fight for clean water, our environment and the future of our planet. The film is a collab­oration between Indigenous filmmakers, Director Myron Dewey, Executive Producer Doug Good Feather and environmental Oscar Nominated filmmakers Josh Fox and James Spione. It is a labor of love to support the peaceful movement of the water protectors.”

  1. The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open

From TIFF: ‘The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open is a brilliant, poignant collaboration between two of Canada’s brightest — and boldest — filmmakers. Tailfeathers, a member of the Kainai First Nation as well as Sámi from Norway, triples as lead, co-writer, and co-director. She shares writing and directing with Kathleen Hepburn, whose 2017 film Never Steady, Never Still premiered at the Festival and was named to TIFF’s Canada’s Top Ten. Using 16mm and presenting their narrative in “real time,” the filmmakers craft a delicate intimacy, which lends emotion to this remarkable story of two women’s resilience, strength, and mutual support.

Taking its title from an essay by Indigenous poet Billy-Ray Belcourt, and based on a watershed moment in Tailfeathers’ life, this story of a chance encounter between two women — living in the same Vancouver neighbourhood, but coming from distinct worlds of class and lived experience — reveals the necessity for Indigenous people to look out for each other in a society that’s too often indifferent to their existence.’

  1. Future History

A critical, honest understanding of history equips us to better understand Indigenous rights and sovereignty. So too does an exploration of Indigenous futurism. At RAVEN, sometimes the key to staying energized for the long-haul is imagining what a more just, decolonized future would look like. Check out this documentary series for a powerful fusion of both past and future Indigeneous perspectives.

From Future History TV: “A documentary series about harnessing Indigenous knowledge and Indigenizing the future Kris Narghang is an archeologist who is reclaiming his Indigenous identity. Sarain Fox is an Indigenous activist and artist. They have been paired together to explore their own identity biases and beliefs while they journey into the Indigenous community and meet innovators who are harnessing Indigenous Knowledge as a way to rewrite history and transform the future.”

  1. There’s Something in the Water

Environmental racism continues to impact First Nations communities in Canada:  from Canada’s shameful boil water advisories to toxic sacrifice zones like Alberta’s tar sands. This documentary will fan the flames of passionate advocacy for justice through the stories of Indigenous and African Nova Scotian women who are leading the way for environmental justice. 

From TIFF: “Elliot Page brings attention to the injustices and injuries caused by environmental racism in his home province, in this urgent documentary on Indigenous and African Nova Scotian women fighting to protect their communities, their land, and their futures.’

  1. Mohawk Girls

While at RAVEN we follow the inspiring lead of Indigenous communities asserting their rights and advocating for a thriving environment, it is just as important to uplift stories of joy, love and light heartedness.

From APTN: “Four twenty-something Mohawk women are trying to find their place in the world. And, of course, trying to find love. But in a small world where you or your friends have dated everyone on the rez, or the hot new guy turns out to be your cousin, it ain’t that simple. Torn between family pressure, tradition, obligation and the intoxicating freedom of the “outside world,” this fabulous foursome is on a mission to find happiness… and to find themselves.”

  1. Falls Around Her

At RAVEN, we are inspired by the resilience of First Nation communities. In this film, the political gets personal. Beloved Indigenous actress, Tantoo Cardinal, portrays the complexities of life on and off the reserve, the power of returning home and the riveting resilience of a northern First Nation. From the beautiful Indigenous representation to the powerful portrayal of resilience, this film is one to cherish. 
From IMDB: “Tantoo Cardinal shines as a world-famous Anishinaabe musician who returns to the reserve to rest and recharge — only to discover that fame (and the outside world) are not easily left behind, in writer-director Darlene Naponse’s riveting portrait of resilience set among a northern First Nation.

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