________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 16 . . . . March 30, 2007


Aboriginal Architecture: Living Architecture.

Paul M. Rickard (Director). Janice Benthin & Paul M. Rickard (Writers). George Hargrave (Mushkeg Productions Inc. Producer). Tamara Lynch (NFB Producer). Sally Bochner (NFB Executive Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2005.
92 min., 47 sec., VHS or DVD, $99.95.
Order Number: 9105 118.

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.

Review by Cathy Vincent-Linderoos.

**** /4

Aboriginal Architecture explores the many transformations of the earliest-known building styles of people from seven different aboriginal communities from Canada and the U.S. They include: the Pueblo, Navajo, Crow, Inuit, Mohawk, Coast Salish, and Haida.

     The director presents these seven first nations' prototype structures and designs as having inspired the ongoing evolution of new buildings. Thus we see where the ancient forms and motifs have reappeared in similar constructs, as well as in novel ways yielding fine examples of cutting-edge, complex building styles. We learn of many similarities among the different styles of aboriginal buildings and of the overarching cultural awareness of several young, very original aboriginal architects and designers.

     This fascinating video would be ideal for students in many different settings. Audiences may well be amazed at the life-affirming connections shown between older styles such as the Inuit igloo, Mohawk longhouse and Crow teepee and others as they "rise again" in unexpected ways in permanent facilities which serve their communities in today's world. Teachers and librarians will be able to show this panoramic film in sections clearly divided by nation, or all at one showing, and many students will want to view it more than once.

     The wealth of visual material in this video is matched by a carefully constructed soundtrack. The female narrator's voice is deep, confident and rich-toned and the music used is appropriate. Overall, the film gives the distinct impression that living (or contemporary) architecture is a topic which is as greatly revered by aboriginal people as is their culture itself. It makes clear the immense pride of aboriginal peoples in their history, their ability to retrieve and to preserve the architectural past wherever possible, and thus to preserve both material and spiritual connections to their ancestors. The director makes good use of graphics to show how some buildings were erected in the past. Numerous interviews with many experts discussing both archeological and new construction sites are included.

     If you live in North America today, this thoroughly researched, extremely original film should not be missed. If you are studying native history, art and culture, aboriginal homes, buildings and design, anthropology, archeology, or architecture, it has much to share. Using the questions provided available at www.nfb.ca/guides
with students will help to make the experience of this film all the
more memorable.

Highly Recommended.

Cathy Vincent-Linderoos, a retired teacher, lives in London, ON.


To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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