Studio D’s legacy and an important film on Attawapiskat by Alanis Obomsawin

9781894549677The National Film Board of Canada ran a transformative wing of its productions in Studio D. From the 1970s to 1990s, film documentaries released by Studio D followed the landmarks of feminist activity, as well as the many tensions which arose from it. Gail Vanstone, author of D is for Daring: The Women Behind the Films of Studio D, states that, “Studio D existed as a particular example of second-wave feminism that organized both its institutional structure and its documentary film production around the process of consciousness-raising that was linked to the concept, ‘the personal is political.’”

Though Studio D was cut from the NFB’s regular operations in 1996, and then further cuts to the NFB this past year hampered many of the organization’s projects, feminist filmmaking has persisted and continues to inform some of the finest works in Canadian documentary. One of the former advisors to Studio D was Alanis Obomsawin. Her directorial work includes the essential document on understanding the siege at Oka in 1990, Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance. Her most recent work is every bit as powerful, and (lucky for us) is also streaming until January 18 on the NFB website. Here is the synopsis:

Alanis Obomsawin’s documentary The People of the Kattawapiskak River exposes the housing crisis faced by 1,700 Cree in Northern Ontario, a situation that led Attawapiskat’s band chief, Theresa Spence, to ask the Canadian Red Cross for help. With the Idle No More movement making front page headlines, this film provides background and context for one aspect of the growing crisis. This film will stream free of charge until Friday, January 18, 2013. (link to video)


While many media outlets actively encourage a divisive ignorance to Aboriginal issues, watch this to see an alternative: the power of one director from this wave of women working at the NFB who continues to use documentary to bring a sense of realism to our many disparate realities, and help all viewers reflect, understand and then speak truth to power.

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