Alanis Obomsawin’s new short film, Honour to Senator Murray Sinclair, is a powerful presentation preserved on film.
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Alanis Obomsawim’s new short documentary, Honour to Senator Murray Sinclair, premiered at TIFF as part of six programmes highlighting her career. It’s paired with a series of shorts, including her first film, Christmas as Moose Factory (1971), shot at a Moose Factory, Ontario residential “school”. Christmas as Moose Factory is a fitting complement to the new film, which is structured around an award speech by Senator Murray Sinclair, the Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The TRC was active from 2008 to 2015 to document the history and legacies of abuse at such “schools”. The TRC publicized to settlers the previously intentionally ignored history of the “schools”.
Sinclair’s speech is simultaneously a concise history of Canada’s genocide, a clear discussion of his philosophy for working with the TRC, and an emphasis on how to build a better future. Obomsawin intercuts images of historical documents and footage from her prior documentaries to illustrate. Sinclair says, “Children are inherently going to be the battleground of reconciliation going forward”, a battle Obomsawin has spent the latest phase of her career documenting. The short serves as a summary not just of Sinclair’s important work, but also how Obomsawin’s recent work contributes to contemporary Indigenous issues in Canada.
Obomsawin includes insert shots of the audience, and it is striking how this powerful speech is being delivered not to a packed auditorium, but to a relatively small group in an empty classroom at McGill University — primarily faculty and grad students. I’ve been to this type of event many times, but have never seen a speech near as worthy of preservation and a wider audience.
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