As part of the Dreamspeakers Film Festival this weekend, I attended a screening of Reel Injun at the Metro Cinema. The film focuses on how aboriginal peoples have been portrayed in Hollywood film since the 1880s, which not surprisingly has largely been based on a lot of stereotypes and misconceptions. It was a well-humoured film that gave a pretty good educational background on the only exposure that many have of aboriginal peoples and their cultures. The film is also really good-humoured.
I enjoy a good Western film as much as anyone and this documentary made me think about how limited my own experiences have been with aboriginal cultures in Canada. When I was younger, I attended grade school with many students from the Alexander First Nation north of Edmonton, but beyond attending classes, there was no talk of cultures or history beyond the Social Studies textbooks.
As Chair of the Council of Alberta University Students in 2006, I participated in a handful of meetings of the Provincial Government’s First Nations, Metis, and Inuit Educational Advisory Committee. These were only day long meetings, so I was not under the impression that I fully understood all the issues discussed, but they did give me a degree of exposure to the challenges facing aboriginal communities in accessing education.
Reel Injun does not delve into explanations of the cultures, but it does an excellent job educating viewers about the ridiculous (and sometimes hilariously ridiculous) film stereotypes that are easily accepted when you do not really think about it. The film makes me want to learn more about aboriginal cultures. If you have the chance, I would recommend that you see it.