The imagineNATIVE Film Festival, which is based in Toronto and is now in its milestone 20th year, is a trailblazing platform for indigenous storytellers. The event only continues to grow every year and aims to spotlight the diverse stories and traditions found within indigenous culture. “When you look at indigenous cinema, oftentimes people think of it as a genre,” Jason Ryle, the festival’s artistic director, told Vogue last year. “But it’s actually a really diverse body of work.”
Kicking off on October 22 and continuing through October 27, this year’s programming is more exciting than ever; it features an eclectic mix of indigenous-made films, shorts, and documentaries. Some films, such as Jeff Barnaby’s Blood Quantum, made their premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last month and are already gaining major buzz. Other special works will make their global premiere at the festival. The festival will also feature Q&As, panels, workshops, and exhibits.
Below, six screenings worth checking out at imagineNATIVE this year.
1. Blood Quantum
From Mi’kmaq director Jeff Barnaby, this zombie horror flick tells the tale of the dead coming back to life everywhere except the isolated Red Crow reservation. Its indigenous inhabitants are somehow immune to the strange zombie plague, and must defend themselves from the undead, while weighing if they should allow refugees into their community. The film—which touches on historical themes of racism and colonialism—received major buzz when it premiered during the Toronto Film Festival’s Midnight Madness program last month.
2. Top End Wedding
This rom-com from indigenous Australian director Wayne Blair follows the story of Lauren, an indigenous lawyer, and her non-indigenous boyfriend, Ned, who get engaged. After deciding they wish to marry in Lauren’s home town of Darwin, the couple arrives at her parents’ house, only to discover that her mother has mysteriously run off, leaving behind a few puzzling clues. With 10 days left until their wedding, a search ensues.
3. Jordan River Anderson, The Messenger
Prolific Abenaki filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin, one of the most prominent indigenous filmmakers working today, is back with a new documentary; it’s also her 53rd film. This new work explores the story of Jordan River Anderson, a First Nations child who spent all five years of his short life in a hospital suffering from a rare muscle disorder known as Carey-Fineman-Ziter syndrome. During his time in the hospital, Canada’s federal and provincial government disputed who was responsible for his care; as a result, his family and fellow indigenous activists agitated for Jordan’s Principle, new legislation that requires equal access to government-funded services for First Nations children.
4. Mothers of the Land
Set in the Peruvian Andes Mountains, this documentary from Quechua director Alvaro Sarmiento follows a group of indigenous women who perform various ceremonies and rituals while tending to their crops as a full moon approaches. As they teach the next generation of women what they know, unpredictable weather and planting conditions threaten their plans, touching on climate change, and how it affects cultural traditions.
5. Shorts Program: Indig Love Stories
This collection of six short films features a mixture of stories, all focused on love in its various forms. Nancy From Now On follows a young Māori boy who wishes to become a drag queen; Wildfire tells the story of a two-spirit teen runaway who is being stalked by his abusive father and meets a Mi’kmaw companion along the way; I Am Me is centered on the self-acceptance story of a young trans woman named Jazmine who transitioned at a young age, and how she used fashion and beauty as a powerful tool during the process.
6. The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open
This drama from Kathleen Hepburn and Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers unfolds in real time and follows two indigenous women who meet by chance: Middle-class Áila comes across Rosie, a poor 18-year-old with an abusive boyfriend, crying on the street. She decides to help Rosie, forming an unlikely relationship that examines the resilience—and unity—of indigenous women. Last month, some of the film’s rights were acquired by Ava DuVernay’s distribution company ARRAY, which focuses on films made by women and people of color. It first premiered at the Berlin Film Festival and later screened at TIFF.
Originally Appeared on Vogue