English 9165A

Indigenous Canadian Cinemas - Documentary to Feature Fiction Films

Instructor: Professor Christopher Gittings
Fall Half Course.

*This course will include a three-hour movie screening on Thursday evenings and a two-hour lecture on Monday afternoons.

The course begins with colonial documentations of Indigenous subjectivity written by Jesuit priests in the 17th and 18th centuries, before considering how that colonial discourse resurfaces in early white settler documentary cinema. Tracking the political economy that withheld the cinematic apparatus from Canada’s Indigenous peoples to erase them through the production of vanishing race documentaries will provide a context for the decolonizing work of documentary films by Indigenous filmmakers like Mike Mitchell and Alanis Obomsawin. We will read documentary theorists such as Bill Nichols to challenge the truth claims of settler documentary representations of Indigenous peoples as well as selections from Christopher Brackens The Potlatch Papers: A Colonial Case History and  Glenn Sean Coulthard’s Red Skin White Masks: Rejecting the Politics of Recognition. Judith Butler’s Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence will provide a frame of reference for understanding both Indigenous image and Indigenous cinema production in Canada.

The second part of the course examines the ghettoization of Indigenous filmmakers to documentary production through the funding structures of Telefilm and the NFB, and the emergence of Indigenous fiction filmmakers like Shirley Cheechoo, Zacharias Kunuk, Shelley Niro, Jeff Barnaby, and Adam Garnet Jones.