imagineNATIVE Co-Presents From Above at Toronto Black Film Festival

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imagineNATIVE is excited to announce our co-presentation of From Above at the Toronto Black Film Festival on Wednesday, February 12, 9PM at the Carlton Cinema (20 Carlton Street). From Above is a beautiful, enchanting love story about a young Native … Continue reading

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imagineNATIVE Co-Presents Arctic Defenders at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

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Arctic Defenders tells the remarkable story of how Canada’s newest territory, Nunavut was created. imagineNATIVE is excited to co-present Arctic Defenders at The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema (506 Bloor St. W) at the following showtimes: Friday, January 17 at 9pm … Continue reading

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imagineNATIVE Co-Presents the Children’s Feature Film, Tainá: The Amazon Legend with the 7th Annual Brazil Film Festival

Tainá: The Amazon Legend 
Sunday, December 1st , 12:00pm
TIFF Bell Lightbox, 350 King Street West

In the comments below, answer the following:
What is the title of the Best Dramatic Feature Film winner of imagineNATIVE 2013?
(Hint: our award winners are here. A random winner will be selected on November 29, 5PM)

Taina 3 - 3ªS - II 145

The film tells the story of Tainá, a 5 years old orphan Indian girl who dreams of becoming a warrior and discovering her true origin. Along the way, she makes unexpected friends such as Laura, a lost city girl, and Gobi, a nerdy Indian boy. They learn to overcome their mutual differences while going through their eventful journey. Tainá confronts the ancestral enemy of her family, Jurupari, the incarnation of Evil, who wants to destroy the Forest.  The film is 100% shot in the Amazon Rainforest, with strong and charming images of people and animals in their real environment, which inspired the original soundtrack executed by the Orchestra of Prague, with Carlinhos Brown (Rio) singing the main theme.

About the Brazilian Film Festival

A film festival fully dedicated to Brazilian cinema! The Brazilian film production of recent years is being recognized everywhere for its quality and diversity. The Brazil Film Fest (BRAFF) showcases a selection of great movies from the new wave of Brazilian filmmaking, all taking place over four days in Toronto. Among fiction features and documentaries, the festival is a chance to see some truly creative and audacious films – both in form and content. A uniquely Brazilian way to warm up at the arrival of the Canadian winter!

For tickets and information visit: or by phone (416-599-8433) or in-person at the TIFF Box office, 350 King Street W in downtown Toronto.

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imagineNATIVE Co-Presents WINTER IN THE BLOOD with The Rendezvous With Madness Film Festival

Missing your native film fix post fest? This southwestern Native drama tingles with electric performances and impressive production design.


imagineNATIVE is excited to co-present WINTER IN THE BLOOD at the 21st Annual Rendezvous With Madness Film Festival November 13th at 9:00pm at the  TIFF Bell Lighitbox in downtown Toronto.

Virgil First Raise (Chaske Spencer) wakes up in a ditch on the hardscrabble plains of Montana, hungover and badly beaten. He returns home to his ranch on the reservation, only to find that his wife, Agnes (Julia Jones), has left him. Worse, she’s taken his beloved rifle. Virgil sets out to town find her— or perhaps just the gun— beginning a hi-line odyssey of inebriated and possibly imagined intrigues in town with the mysterious ‘Airplane Man’ (David Morse), a beautiful barmaid, and two dangerous Men in Suits. Are they real? Or are they spirits guiding him away from his true path? Virgil’s quest brings him face-to-face with his childhood memories of his beloved lost brother, Mose.

In their first movie since The Slaughter Rule (which introduced the world to Ryan Gosling and Amy Adams), twin directors Alex and Andrew Smith have made a hauntingly beautiful film that is true to the lyrical and unflinching spirit of James Welch’s classic 1974 novel about Native American life.

See the trailer here:

Rendezvous with Madness Film Festival (Rendezvous) is a signature event of Workman Arts, produced in Toronto since 1993.  The mandate of Rendezvous is to explore the facts and mythologies of mental illness and addiction, as presented by Canadian and international filmmakers, video and media artists; to facilitate discussion on these cinematic and media representations; to provide filmmakers and media artists an opportunity to screen or exhibit work that may otherwise not be seen; and, to increase awareness of, and advocacy for, mental health and addiction issues among the broader public.

For tickets and information visit: Additional group tickets (10 or more) are available at the discounted rate of $5/ticket – a savings of 50% off the regular ticket price!

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imagineNATIVE Co-Presents THE ROCKET with Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival

Whale Rider and Beasts of the Southern Wild style coming-of-age story has captivated critics and audiences around the world.


imagineNATIVE is excited to co-present THE ROCKET at the 17th Annual Toronto Reel Asian Internatinal Film Festival November 10th at 5:30pm at the Royal Cinema in downtown Toronto.

The Rocket is an internationally acclaimed story about a spirited boy’s quest to break free from his ill-fated destiny. Performed by mostly nonprofessional actors, it is one of the first internationally released feature films from the seldom-seen country of Laos.

When his family is forced to leave their village to make way for a massive water dam, Ahlo is blamed for a string of disasters. Along with his father and grandmother, he must escape through a land scarred by war in search of a new home.

A rocket festival offers a lucrative—but dangerous—chance to earn a new beginning. With the help of his new friends, an orphan named Kia and her James Brown-loving uncle, he sets out to prove his worth to his family.

Including material filmed at a real rocket festival in Laos, the filmmaker based scenes and characters on real encounters; resulting in a well-observed and humanistic drama about resilience and perseverance in the face of painful hardships and social inequity. See the trailer here:

The Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival® is a unique showcase of contemporary Asian cinema and work from the Asian diaspora. Works include films and videos by East, South and Southeast Asian artist in Canada, the U.S., Asia and all over the world. As Canada’s largest Asian film festival, Reel Asian® provides a public forum for Asian media artists and their work, and fuels the growing appreciation for Asian cinema in Canada.

For tickets and information, visit

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Empire of Dirt – In Toronto Theatres November 22

Going home was never an option for single mother Lena Mahikan (Cara Gee). But when her 13-year-old, Peeka (Shay Eyre) overdoses in the streets of Toronto, she is forced to return home to her estranged mother and face a life-long legacy of shame and resentment. Empire of Dirt is a story about second chances and summoning the power of family to soothe the pain of cyclical damage.


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Canadian Indigenous Shorts presented by CSIF


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imagineNATIVE (a Wrap Up)

It is with great sadness that I pen my final entry as guest blogger for imagineNATIVE.  As with most great events, there is a slight depression that happens to all those who were involved when the action suddenly stops, which is followed by a brief sadness and then a warm feeling for all the happy memories from experiencing success.

The festival took me through many unforgettable moments and was definitely an emotional journey of sorts. There were touching moments, such as the affecting shorts I saw from all over the world that had me mopping my eyes with both sadness and joy nonstop. Renae Maihi’s Butterfly gave an enormously touching metaphor of the infinite cycles of life and Poata Eruera’s Pūmanawa reminded me so much of my mother’s struggle with her own tragic past.  Or when Kanakan Balintagos earnestly thanked me for writing the first positive review on his artful venture Baybayin (The Script) that he has read outside of the Philippines. There were moments that straight up made me laugh, like the heart-warming and hilarious imagineNATIVE award winner Mohawk Midnight Runners by Zoe Hopkins where three men start running in the nude in support of their friend who has passed.   Or the adorable introductions from the imagineNATIVE’s Jason and Daniel, the “wusbands (working husbands)”.

And there were moments that surprised me, like when award-winning new media artist Jenny Fraser called Australia a ‘cultural apartheid society’, stating that cultural producers down under look to Canada as a leader in terms of Indigenous arts and culture.  Moments like that often saddened me, yet filled me with pride.  It was a common theme that the different peoples involved in imagineNATIVE all look to each other as leaders in Indigenous media yet all seemed to concur that imagneNATIVE is the leading festival for film and media globally and that was very exciting to hear.

I keep going back to the screening of Mystery Road and shaking hands with the dazzling Aaron Pederson… but that’s another story that dates back to his stint on the Australian drama The Secret Lives of Us back in 2005.  Something he said really resonated during the q&a after Mystery Road about how he and director Ivan Sen were creating the ‘conversations people weren’t having’.  Although I believe strongly that pigeonholing categories such as women’s, gay and Indigenous issues is ridiculous as they should be everyone’s concern, the bottom line is that the focus of much media and politics are still extremely narrow.  Through creating Indigenous-centric pop culture, directors can bring focus to the truth of their own realities, both past and present, and allow their communities the voice they may otherwise be missing.

That imagineNATIVE is doing this in such a largescale is incredibly important and I am still astounded and so full of pride that I was able to be a part of this incredible festival. As imagineNATIVE’s intern and guest blogger, I had my first experience live blogging and managing multiple social media platforms and I am so full of appreciation for everyone who was involved in this festival.  This was a terrific year and I miss it already.  Thanks to all those who made my time with imagineNATIVE so great.  See you next year!!!


Zoé Noble Fox is a graduate of OCAD University and a proud Toronto resident. She is also an independent curator, writer, photographer, crafter and social media enthusiast. See more of her work here.


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Tropes and Trauma

When I first decided which of the many awesome options to view at this years festival, Jeff Barnaby’s Rhymes for Young Ghouls was one of the first to catch my eye.  As a lifelong fan of horror and grind house, I was looking forward to this gritty, action packed feature and boy, was I ever surprised by this flick.  Ghouls went way above and beyond my already heightened expectations.  Barnaby’s work is always extremely gritty and this was no exception.  There were fists flying abound, audible bashings, shit-showers, suicide, head explosions, concussions of various kinds and Jeff’s compulsory inclusion of the walking dead.  The beautiful Devery Jacobs was astounding as Aila.  I’d say I couldn’t take my eyes of her but she’s in almost every shot in the movie so that would be redundant, but nevertheless she was insanely captivating. She described the film as ‘raw and unforgiving’ in this interview, perfect adjectives to describe this 1970’s era grit-fest about a group of narcotic-dealing rez orphans bent on survival at any cost.


Jeff Barnaby’s 2013 TIFF-premiered feature Rhymes for Young Ghouls

The combination fast-paced horror intercepted with comedy and magical realism makes Ghouls a potent, explosive flick that literally had me winded. Although I know of the residential system, I feel that the majority of Canadians remain ignorant due to pitfalls throughout our education systems nationwide.  It is always shocking to be reminded that these institutions were still in full swing for Indigenous Gen X children, the last of them closing less than twenty years ago.   Barnaby’s tactical combination of these genres is a specialty of his and is a tool for effectively dealing with the trauma of the residential school system that lingers on in Canada.  Tarantino’s controversial Django Unchained came to mind as a point of reference, but Barnaby surpasses this flick as both an originally badass movie and as platform for discussion on t crucial topics that are so often ignored. I hope it enjoys the commercial success it deserves.


Glen Gould, Devery Jacobs and Brendon Oakes in Rhymes for Young Ghouls

I was also excited by Ariel Smith’s video essay This Video Essay Was Not Built On an Ancient Indian Burial Ground: Examining Horror Film Aesthetics within Indigenous Cinema.  In this short, Smith, dressed as an Elvira spoof, dissects the use of horror tropes in Indigenous cinema, and the use of Indigenous tropes in horror cinema. Using Barnaby’s work as a starting point, she discussed how horror tropes can be used to create a space where traumatic cultural memories can be dealt with.  Smith played gory snippets from Barnaby’s shorts The Colony and File Under Miscellaneous.  In both these films, he uses gratuitous self-mutilation as a way to deal with the residual violence of colonialism.  Smith also touched on the 1980’s cinematic obsession with the “Indian burial ground” as the mysterious reason for various demonic happenings.  “Classics” were rendered ridiculous in front of a gleeful audience, eager to find humour in demonic hullabaloo.  It became all too apparent that although the disruption of the sacred dead was the source for each plotline development, nothing tangible or political surfaced as a result.  This burial ground complex also alluded to ‘Indians’ as a deceased thing of the past, belonging to an ancient time that has now passed.


Thomas Builds-The-Fire (Evan Adams) and Victor Joseph (Adam Beach) in Smoke Signals

It goes without saying that horror would be nothing without its outrageous bedfellow, camp.  Idle No More activist Wanda Nanibush’s video essay, Indigenous Film: Outsiders, Loveable Losers and Nerds consisted of a montage of examples Indigenous Outsider Cinema, including Taika Waititi’s 2010 film Boy and Chris Eyre’s 1998 adaption of Smoke Signals.  Nanibush showed the important use of camp by Indigenous writers and directors as a tool in dealing with heavier themes such as death, feelings of failure, struggles with unbelonging and negotiating cultural apartheid.  These film tropes gain poignancy when adopted by Indigenous directors because the characters employing them become more real than their one-dimensional quirky Caucasian counterparts.  The irony of this use of the outsider in Indigenous cinema is ironic, as Indigenous peoples worldwide have long battled with falling outside the mainstream or colonial ideals.  Eccentric characters allow those out of step to see the humour in their difference.

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Day two: The infinite power of language

My second day of imagineNATIVE was one where all themes led to discussions of language.  I started off my day at a fantastic panel with nine of our 16 Maori delegates on Indigengous Media Art in Aotearoa (New Zealand).  ImagineNATIVE decided to have a Maori Spotlight this year due to the seemingly seamless integration of Maori cinema into NZ film production.   There are hopes that the Moari delegates can aid Canadian Indigenous filmmakers who are bursting with ideas but often struggle for funding.  When asked why he thought the film industry was so successful in Ateaora, filmmaker Tainui Stephens mentioned the traditional languages of the Maori.  Although they differ, all groups can find a common linguistic ground, from which to understand each other.  This is a metaphorical unifier above all else, one that allows Maori cultural producers to unify on their issues despite large personal differences.



- Boy, imagineNATIVE’s 2012 opening movie produced by Maori delegate Ainsley Gardiner

In reality, only one in four Maori have knowledge of their traditional language.  Our delegates were quick to point out that this statistic is on the rise due to education and the establishment of specific language schools and a renewed interest in tradition that may be owed in a large part to a surge in Maori-generated film and television production.  Stephens also told an anecdote where he observed a young mother speaking with her child in Maori in a video store and was astounded to when the white store clerk addressed them in Maori also.  This touched on a point that several of the delegates mentioned about the process of making Maori visible through pop culture.  These folks are uncompromising and set a tone for their industry by supporting new talent as a community and continually pushing work that deals with Maori issues.  Producer Ainsley Gardiner and writer/director Briar Grace-Smith both mentioned theatre as a possible takeover platform that allowed Maori cultural production to develop in a way that was true to their creative goals, or ‘imaginings’ as Grace-Smith called it.

I am endlessly astounded by the tight budgets cited by the filmmakers of imagineNATIVE and the beauty with which the films are executed.  I later went to see BayBayin (The Script), a spectacular film by Kanakan Balintagos, a director from Palawan, the Western-most province of the Philippines.  Again the focus was on language lost as two half-sisters, parted by their mother’s death, reunite in their native land.  The sisters, along with their deaf friend, are the only ones who have maintained knowledge of their pre-colonization language of Baybayin.  The film is about stillness, balance and the clarity that comes with the reclamation and preservation of identity.  One audience member compared the aesthetic of Baybayin to Gauguin’s Polynesian studies as the movie had so much emphasis on framing and colour.


Balintagos gave a q&a after the film in a full three-piece suit with shimmering gold details and matching bowtie.  The audience let out a audible gasp when he retold, with a sweet smile, that he shot on location in Palawan over a span of 15 days with a crew of 20 people, several of which also featured in more minor roles.  His budget was 75,000.  The film is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen in terms of artistry, but I believe what truly make Baybayin so involving is this theme of ancestry and the idea of preservation of for what all intents and purposes could be paradise.

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