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Produced by Mark Zanis; directed by Boyce Richardson
National Film Board of Canada, 1991. VHS cassette, 27 min., $26.95.

Subject Headings:
Indian Peoples of Canada.
Environment and Conservation.


Produced by Wolf Koenig and Alanis Obomsawin; directed by Alanis Obomsawin
National Film Board of Canada, 1993. VHS cassette, 119 min., $34.95. Both distributed by the NFB.

Subject Headings:
Indian Peoples of Canada.
Politics and Government-Canada.
Quebec-History and Politics.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up

Reviewed by Sharon A. McLennan-McCue

Volume 22 Number 5
1994 October

It gives me great pleasure to recommend two videos that explain a great deal about the difficulties Canadian aboriginal people are facing. You will not come away after two and a half hours with a full understanding of all the problems, but you may have a better idea of how they have been exacerbated and of how (even under close media scrutiny) politicians continue to make disastrous choices which change the course of history for the worse, choices which are not necessarily supported by the people who have elected them.

These two videos, though not done collaboratively, complement each other very well. Blockade was written and directed by Boyce Richardson, who has been writing and making films about aboriginal people since long before they were the flavour of the month. Richardson's point of view is that of an intelligent and knowledgeable nonaboriginal. Clearly, he understands how the issues fit into the big picture but he does not beat you over the head with that. Quite simply, he tells a story, shoots it beautifully, and lets one draw one's own conclusions.

Blockade recounts the dealings of the Algonquins of Barrier Lake with the Quebec government in their attempt to save a last bit of land from clear-cut logging so that they can protect what remains of their traditional life-style. The viewer shares the frustration of Algonquin spokespeople who are treated with the utmost disrespect. It is not difficult to understand how such treatment could lead to a blockade. It is most important to recognize how little was learned by government officials in the time between this incident and the crisis.

Alanis Obomsawin wrote and directed Kanehsatake. As an aboriginal filmmaker she gives the viewers the "inside goods," with all the emotion that such a point of view entails. Her view of Kanehsatake shows the viewer that the fight to protect aboriginal land from being turned into a golf course started centuries before. That the result was violent cannot be surprising--the only marvel is that it did not happen sooner and with even greater violence. If you became tired after months of news coverage, if you are sure you have seen everything you want to see about this one--watch this film. Watch it with an open mind, one that says, "given this treatment would members of the nonaboriginal culture have been nearly so reasonable?" Time has passed since the summer of 1990. Some hot spots have been added to the aboriginal map. The question that remains is, what has happened in that time to the people of Kanehsatake and Barrier Lake? And am I as a Canadian pleased with how my representatives have dealt with these problems? If you have had trouble getting those classroom discussions going I rather suspect that these videos will provide as much interest and enthusiasm as a skilled facilitator can manage.

Sharon A. McLennan-McCue is a policy analyst with Aboriginal Corrections, Solicitor General of Canada, in Ottawa, Ontario

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