Documentary festivals are certainly not immune to scandal and controversy, and this year’s RIDM, which took place in Montreal in November 2015, was no exception. Following on the heels of the festival’s public screenings of Dominic Gagnon’s film Of the North, Inuit artists like Tanya Tagaq and Alethea Arnaquq-Baril took to social media to express their dismay, anger and frustration over the inclusion of an ethically problematic film in the festival’s program.
The resulting fallout revealed a deep chasm in the industry, where limited knowledge of Indigenous peoples and cinema was met with de-contextualized defenses of art and proclamations that an overly sensitive public was misguided by their limited knowledge of avant-garde filmmaking practices. As a film programmer and educator I was compelled to speak about the controversy with filmmaker Arnaquq-Baril from her home in Iqaluit, Nunavut Territory.* (Above image of courtesy John Burridge.)
Ezra Winton : Alethea, thank you for agreeing to take time for this important conversation. My first question is how did you find out about Of the North and what was your initial reaction to it?
Alethea Arnaquq-Baril : A woman saw the film at RIDM and contacted me because she was upset and concerned. She had spent time in the North, and knowing that it was about Inuit I was curious and she sent me a link to the film. So I hadn’t heard anything about it until then, I had no idea this film was made or touring festivals in Canada and Europe or anything until this woman who had been North before and lived among Inuit saw it and spoke out about it.
And you watched it and what was your initial reaction?
I had a hard time finishing it, but I forced myself because I knew, pretty much right away, that I couldn’t just sit quiet about it and so I had to see it. But before I’d even seen the film I had read that he [Gagnon] had never been North, had maybe never met an Inuk and that the film was just full of drunken Inuit. So, just knowing that a film like that played at RIDM was pretty upsetting to me.
So I forced myself to finish watching the film and I can only say—I can’t think of another way to describe my reaction except that I just felt physically ill—starting about 10 minutes into the film I was disgusted, and it just got worse throughout. I think it hasn’t been widely seen by Inuit but all of the Inuit that have seen it used these exact words: they felt physically ill.
What was it about the images you were seeing that was causing such a intense affective or bodily reaction?
To start, I think the nudity with the women really felt dangerous to me. I mean, there were just two clips but they weren’t short, and talk about gratuitous, I have no idea what purpose those shots serve besides maybe stirring up some controversy or notoriety for the film, but they were just so disgustingly irresponsible to include for no justifiable reason.
And seeing people that I know in the film, at their worst, having hit rock bottom, knowing that they’re humans, they’re fully formed people with emotions and families, and this man just treated them like anonymous nameless soulless people. Less than people really.
It was difficult to sit there and watch, I mean it’s not pleasant to watch anyone who’s drunk and throwing up, it’s not pleasant just to watch a full minute-long clip of that no matter who the person is. But when you see it over and over again in the film I would think: another one, really? And, why this much? These weren’t just little clips, they were often long.
It was torture to watch these things.
And throughout the film I kept thinking: it’s relentless and this film isn’t saying anything except this is what Inuit life is like. It seemed to me that that’s what this film was saying, that this is what our society looks like, and that’s not what my life looks like, it’s not what my family’s life looks like. I don’t look around me and see that most of the time. It is portraying Inuit society as the stereotype that we’ve been living with for so, so long.
And how do you respond to Gagnon’s rejoinder that he wasn’t making a film that was meant to be pleasant, that in fact it was meant to be difficult?
Yes, I found that really condescending.
The way he said it, it’s like he was implying that I’d rather he just make it a happy, feel-good film and only show the good side of Inuit life, which is not at all the truth. He also spoke as if we don’t understand the concept of making a film from found footage, which is also really condescending. I’m a filmmaker—I understand that.
My friend Caroline Monnet is an Indigenous filmmaker who recently made a breathtaking film called Mobilize using entirely found footage. She also used Tanya Tagaq’s music, but she actually got permission. Maybe Dominic also makes great films from found footage, I just don’t think this particular film is one of them.
And, speaking of Indigenous cinema in general, there are a lot of heavy, difficult films out there made by Indigenous people and I would argue that the vast majority of Indigenous films are difficult and facing our issues head on. He was just showing his ignorance, he didn’t know. It seems to me he knows nothing about Indigenous cinema and he knows nothing about Indigenous people. That became very clear to me when I saw the film.
And hearing his comments afterwards, I’m shocked that somebody would program his film in a major festival, give it an award, and that prominent people in our industry would stand up and defend this work. I wasn’t shocked that someone like him would make the film, but I was shocked that it could be programmed. I’ve never run a festival, but I suspect at least a couple of people would have had to have watched it.
Then on top of that, for it to screen and win an award in Switzerland. I thought the Western world was just a little bit more knowledgeable by now, I thought we were farther along in race relations than we actually are I guess. So it was enlightening for me, and depressing, because I thought we were better than that by now.
And it made me question how people see me now.
When I travel outside of my home, I have to feel like I’m always going to be second-guessing what people are seeing in me, if they see me as a human, if they’re going to be assuming I’m a drunk, are they going to be assuming that I just can’t help myself, and that I have to be saved.
I’ve always been a very optimistic person—I don’t want to be miserable and cynical, and the response to this film and the support for it from important people in our industry is making it really hard for me to stay an optimistic Indigenous filmmaker.
With that in mind, I’d like to talk about the context of support for the film. Here is part of the description in the RIDM program for Of the North, written by Bruno Dequen, one of the top programmers at RIDM: “…the roughness of the recordings and fascinating but also unsettling throat singing, the film not only presents Inuit self-perceptions, but those of a filmmaker who, driven by the uncanny intensity of a people who live in a merciless environment, exacerbates the violence, culture shock and fierce beauty of a world that becomes, before his eyes, a true Interzone.”
“A true Interzone”?
I’m not familiar with that phrase either. I am wondering if he means an Interzone between cultures. I find the write-up illustrative of the way the RIDM programmers perceived the film (as opposed to the filmmaker, the audiences, the people represented). What do you think about these words such as the roughness and merciless environment and culture shock, exacerbating the violence, etc? It all sounds very spectacular.
Yes. It makes me think of when they had Inuit in cages in New York City and Paris and all that. It’s poverty porn. It’s trauma porn. Let’s watch these tortured people and feel better about our lives.
But then there is Gagnon and the RIDM programmers claiming this is an exercise of self-representation/perception—that we non-Indigenous people or non-Inuit are seeing the ways in which Inuit perceive themselves, presumably because they’ve recorded and captured the images and uploaded them to YouTube. This is one of the central threads in their support and justification for the programming of the film.
I would say the majority of the people in the film, almost every single one did not necessarily want to be on camera, they were recorded by someone else and uploaded by someone else. So to say it’s self-perception is ridiculous. And to try to claim that this is how Inuit perceive ourselves is also ridiculous. We’re always fighting against this stereotype.
I was looking at YouTube clips uploaded by Inuit after I watched this film, just to see how quickly a clip of a drunken Inuk came up, and I couldn’t find one. I just started scrolling through clips and I couldn’t find one. This guy had to really search out clips of drunken Inuit. It’s as if he went searching for clips of “drunk Inuit” or “drunk Eskimo.”
This is a decision he made to portray us this way. He went in with his own perception; it’s not a reflection of how Inuit perceive ourselves. It’s not a perception of how I see myself, that’s for damn sure.
That’s not to say we don’t have addiction issues in our communities. We do, we talk about it a lot, we desperately need help, we desperately need funding for addiction treatment centres. We don’t have capital funding, even though Inuit are crying out for it year after year after year.
It’s not like we want to avoid this issue and it’s not like we’re denying that we have addiction issues at higher levels than the rest of the country. But this film does nothing, nothing, to talk about the causes and possible solutions for this problem.
And it paints a picture that we are all addicted, and that’s not the truth. We have higher rates of addiction because we have higher rates of trauma. But we are not all drunks, and this film makes it seem like we’re all drunks.
There are two other reactions that I’ve encountered from non-Indigenous people, in response to both the festival controversy around the film and to the film itself. In the context of the festival programming, I’ve heard several people argue that RIDM has sparked a debate and conversation, and isn’t that a good thing? And isn’t that what documentary is supposed to do?
My response to that has been to ask: at whose cost are we having that debate? And what is the debate, really? The second reaction that I’ve heard is from people who’ve seen the film and say it’s very complex and very beautiful and this is just a typical PC [Politically Correct] reaction. What do you think about such responses?
It hasn’t sparked quality debate. All it’s done is force us to say no we’re not all drunks, and it’s not right to portray us all as drunks. That’s as far as the conversation has been able to go in the mainstream media.
People only have so much attention for Indigenous issues. It sucks that when something like this comes up we only have two minutes of airtime, and in that two minutes, the whole moment has to be taken up with the statement: we’re not all drunks.
I’m so fucking tired of having to take our two minutes of opportunity, of airtime, to say, “I’m not a drunk.” I’m done saying that. The conversation should be deeper than that, and we’re not getting the opportunity to do that when a film like this is shown.
By that logic, we should be screening films of wall-to-wall Muslim terrorists in order to spark debate on the issue of terrorism. By that logic we should be using films that portray black people as violent criminals to talk about race. But that is not helpful, it’s not the truth, it doesn’t portray the people accurately. Rather it enforces really old and really ridiculous stereotypes, and the fact that I have to say that in this day and age is outrageous.
I agree and I think saying that it’s a PC reaction is linked to this idea that it’s a form of censorship in a PC culture where you can’t do or say anything controversial, but the discourse around that is privileging the dominant white society, and allowing them to decide the terms.
So my reaction is: maybe it’s PC with some of the white liberal folks who are morally outraged yet who haven’t even seen the film, I don’t know. But it’s not PC when the criticism is coming from the people whose community is represented. When their reaction is one of hurt and being harmed, how can you call that a PC reaction?
You know, whoever is calling the critical reaction to this film overly sensitive and PC is so utterly ignorant about life in the North. You cannot watch this film and feel that way. You can’t if you have any idea what it’s like to live up here, and the issues we face. Not if you’re suggesting that this film has pushed boundaries and brings up a good kind of controversy.
The curators at festivals or broadcasters have a responsibility—I mean, it’s their job. Films are made all the time about other cultures, and it’s something that festivals have to do on a regular basis: to assess whether a film is entertaining, whether it’s honest, whether it’s helpful. This should be something that festivals should be thinking about with every single film that they program.
Who is the audience and who are the storytellers and do they have a right to tell the story they’re telling? Do they understand the responsibility they carry? Does the storyteller understand the responsibility, and do the programmers? It’s something that should always be in the front of their minds
I was looking at that CBC article about the CBC removing the comment section on any story to do with Indigenous people until January at the earliest. It’s sad that that’s necessary, but I was really happy to see that they’re doing that because any story that involves Inuit, the first comments are… Well, just last night I was looking at one about the Edmonton Eskimos and the first comment was, “why don’t you just go back to your bottle of vodka.” And the next comment expanded on that joke, and said, “wait, don’t you mean Lysol?” And that’s what I see on a daily basis. Daily. So to say that this film is pushing new ground, it isn’t: it’s old news.
It’s not just old news, it’s not a unique perspective. You can find it anywhere—as you say, in the comments section of CBC.ca, or in many other films or other artworks.
It’s everywhere in our country. And I thought it was just the trolls, but apparently it’s our festival programmers, too.
That brings me to my next question, from my perspective as a documentary programmer and someone interested in festival/curatorial practices. I’m working with Shannon Walsh on a project around documentary screening ethics and moving the conversation beyond the consideration of the relationship between the artist and the subject, to one that considers the film in the social world and the ways in which it has an impact on cultures and with audiences. It’s about the ethical implications of a film that is curated and exhibited, and realizing that it’s not just the content of the film we should concern ourselves with.
We have documentary festivals that are predominantly run by white people, by those of us from settler culture, where programmers are not Indigenous (unless it’s an Indigenous-themed festival). And there’s an entire subset of the industry of non-Indigenous people making films about Indigenous culture and politics. Many of these are good, but it needs to be said that we have non-Indigenous people making films about Indigenous people, and then we have non-Indigenous (mostly white) people programming those films.
I’m curious what you think about this context, about this ethics gap in the process (where we consider not just the content of the film, but the context of film programming and exhibition). And what do you think festivals like RIDM and in particular festivals showing Indigenous works or works that portray Indigenous people could or should be doing differently?
Well, I think it’s helpful to be educated about Indigenous cinema first of all. And I agree, first of all, there are plenty of excellent films made about Indigenous people made by non-Indigenous people—that is possible, there are great ones out there. So by no means do I argue that only Indigenous people should make Indigenous films, and I feel that needs to be said.
As an Indigenous person, that’s how I feel. Outside perspectives can be helpful. But I’ve also seen films about Indigenous people made by non-Indigenous people that weren’t really saying anything new, or were just steeped in outsider perspective that was full of assumptions that may or may not be true or helpful, or insightful in any way.
Sometimes it’s like this: oh look, I got to see these exotic people and here is my experience. And as a curator of that kind of content, it’s helpful to have seen a lot of Indigenous cinema to know something about it, to know whether that story’s already been told a thousand times or not, whether it’s saying anything important, whether it’s furthering discussion, whether it’s cutting-edge or way behind the times.
With regards to Dominic [Gagnon]’s film, it seems both he and programmers thought it was cutting-edge, yet to me it’s way behind the times—it’s ancient history; it’s how people felt about us in the 1950s. So if they had any concept of what life is like, not just what life is like in the North now but what has been said about us in the past, this film would not have happened.
I think it’s really important for people to get educated, not just about Indigenous people but about Indigenous cinema. Dominic and the entire staff of RIDM should attend ImagineNATIVE next year.
And when I first saw the film I thought who the hell did the E&O (Errors and Omissions) insurance, because there are prominent figures in the film who obviously didn’t want to be in it, they didn’t even want to be in the original YouTube clips, never mind in an internationally distributed film. And then I realized maybe this film isn’t intended for broadcast and maybe he didn’t have to go through the E&O process. In which case I think maybe festivals should be doing some thinking around programming films of primarily found footage whereby they should know whether or not a film has been through the E&O process.
And if the film is primarily found footage, maybe somebody should be taking a second to think: are the people in the clips willing to be in this film? Are they willing to even be in the original clips? Maybe there’s an additional onus on the festival to ensure that it’s not chockablock full of people who absolutely do not want to be prominently featured in a negative film.
So you’re suggesting a more pointed conversation with the filmmaker about those kinds of ethical and legal implications, especially when it’s something like found footage?
Yes, and maybe they can still decide to take that risk, maybe the film is really important and saying something really important and they can decide to program it anyway, but they should at least be asking those questions, and I do not believe that RIDM did that in this case. I don’t think it was given a thought.
And I don’t think Dominic expected or wanted Inuit to see the film. If he had, he might have proposed screening it up here. But when he was asked if any Inuit had seen the film, he said: well, they’re going to see it now because of the media attention is all over it (Because we—Tanya [Tagaq] and Kelly [Fraser] and I—started making complaints publically.) And that to me said that he wasn’t expecting Inuit to see it or maybe hoping that we wouldn’t, or he assumes that we live way off in the remote Arctic and how will we ever know, as if we don’t have Facebook or Twitter.
Maybe there’s a way of making the curatorial process more just. At Cinema Politica, we are often unsure about films with regards to representation because of who made the film and how a certain marginalized community is represented. In those moments we reach out to our programming community consultants for advice. These are people from those particular communities, they’re often filmmakers and/or activists, and they’re willing to watch the films for us and then give us their take. That helps us in the decision-making process enormously. Do you think that festivals could or should be doing something similar?
Yes, well, I would hope that if they’re a larger festival with a large number of staff, then some of that staff might be from another culture other than the dominant cultures. It’s good to have a filter or perspective, someone who is a visible minority or someone from a different culture or who even speaks a different language, who can bring another view and provide that most basic filter. And that’s extremely valuable when your business or organization is showcasing cultural content from around the world—that’s a very basic step that can be taken.
But also, when something is questionable or asking tough questions or representing a very marginalized people, then yes, at the very least, Dominic or RIDM or whoever could’ve just said, hey, maybe we should show this film to an Inuk and see what they think. That is a very easy thing to do. So yes, I absolutely think that that would be a very good practice to implement across the industry.
It seems like the festival feels that what they just needed to do was have a better screening context in which maybe Indigenous/Inuit people were invited to speak about the film, or something of the sort. I’m wondering if for you that solves the issue of this film being a stereotypical or racist representation of Inuit? Would steps like that have done anything to help?
Yes. I think the value in that is creating dialogue, discussion, debate around the difficult issues we face. And so I find that it was a very questionable decision to screen it and to not ensure there were some Inuit there or at least invited.
But that’s beside the point with this film. They completely missed the point with that comment [RIDM’s public statement about the handling of the screening of the film]. Yes, you need to think about how you screen a film, and if it’s difficult material that brings up issues that need to be discussed, then yes, you need to make that happen, and you need to consider how you present it.
But you also need to consider the film itself and RIDM truly doesn’t get why this film is so reckless and damaging. Their statement, like the film, shows a willful ignorance and a lack of humility. Rather than consider the possibility that they might have made a mistake, they assume that these Inuit aren’t sophisticated enough to understand art at this level.
You know, it’s not just the fact that it’s chock-full of shots of drunken Inuit, that’s not the only thing. It’s also the way that industry and development is presented, and the destructive resource extraction industry, the way that’s portrayed in the film, juxtaposed with what seems to be an Inuit society disintegrating and falling in on itself.
The way all of that that is cut together, it just feels like the film is saying: look what we’re doing, we’re just sending these huge faceless corporations up there to extract the wealth, meanwhile we don’t give a shit about the people and they’re just imploding and disintegrating and why aren’t we helping them?
I suspect it’s that perceived message that makes the film “beautiful” to some. My guess is that this is the good intention behind the film – Dominic won’t explain himself, so I have to guess. I can’t imagine why otherwise anyone would think this film is worthwhile, other than suggesting “we should be doing something more for these people”.
But I need to explain why this portrayal is so damaging. It’s showing a part of Inuit society that is really struggling, portraying it as if that state of things is the way most of society is up here. That’s damaging.
But also, what I find really irresponsible is presenting our situation as though we’ve fallen in on ourselves without the help of outsiders. It’s saying to me that the role of the rest of Canada in our destruction has been a passive one. It’s been one where the damage is incidental: we’re just casualties of development and that without having our hand held, we fall apart and kill ourselves with alcohol.
It takes the responsibility and the history away. Our state of trauma and dysfunction is not a result of being saved or not being saved. It is the result of active destruction by the Canadian government and the Canadian people.
It’s as if this film is completely ignoring the fact that we were under attack for decades, a century almost, that there was decisive action meant to wipe us off the face of the planet, trying to kill our culture and assimilate our people and hope that we would integrate and disappear eventually.
And this was a conscious decision by the Canadian government and the church that was supported by the Canadian people, and there was wave upon wave of these attacks. These were calculated, purposeful acts of destruction against our people.
And it was not passive, it wasn’t incidental, it wasn’t accidental, it was a decisive action. And this film makes it feel accidental. And to me that’s the most damaging aspect of the film: for our society as a whole.
Now, concerning the individuals in the film, obviously including them without their permission, that’s the most damaging for them as individuals. But as a society, as a culture, as a people, in my opinion the most damaging thing is presenting us as if we’re helpless and need to have our hands held.
And it’s a very patronizing view to suggest that it’s just industry coming up here without doing anything to save us—that that’s the cause of our destruction. When really, it was so much more active than that. I rambled a bit there…
No it’s good. It’s about agency and it’s also about placating responsibility. It’s easier for Southerners to think that the North is so broken and the people so broken, the culture so dysfunctional because there are rapacious corporations doing the things that they’re doing up there without regard for the people, and that this is the cause of their troubles.
And you’re right, that evacuates the history and the historical context of colonization and racism by the Canadian government, and with Canadian people supporting it in the South. So I think it’s an excellent point.
They don’t want to think that they’re culpable in our demise, because they’re not the ones who made these harmful decisions. It’s still difficult to think that your parents or grandparents or your ancestors were culpable, that they took part in these decisions and supported them and viewed Inuit as less than human.
People don’t want to admit that their own families and their ancestors were part of that. And it’s understandable; it’s a difficult thing to face. Being part Inuk and part French Canadian, I struggle with that internally.
But we need to face it, as a country. And by ignoring that history and denying that your families were a part of that destruction it just continues that trauma, and maybe it’s less direct and less actively destructive. Denying its existence and its importance, the importance of recognizing what happened, today, is its own violence.
Because when people don’t know this history, they can’t fully understand why we are struggling the way we are. It doesn’t make sense, so they think we must be inferior in some way. This film is unconsciously teaching its viewers that Inuit are inferior.
I agree. In my film classes we’ve discussed the notion of burden of representation, with regards to pioneer filmmakers from marginalized, mis- and under-represented communities (for example the first Black Canadian to make a feature fiction film). The burden of representation is about the pressures put on these artists to speak for, and accurately and fairly represent their communities.
And I sense that this burden of representation has shifted to a kind of burden of interpretation, where settler society and white Canadians make films like Of The North that are in turn programmed by white institutions, and then the community represented and harmed by the dissemination of these films then have the burden to interpret those representations and to educate the dominant society. And so you hear for example African-Americans who say: why do we have to constantly educate white America about stereotypes and race and racism?
And here in Canada there’s so far to go: my students say they’ve learned nothing about Indigenous history, people and culture in high school, that they’re still only learning about the fur trade, much like when I was in high school decades ago. So I’m wondering if you could talk about this burden of interpretation and education, the ways in which you, Tanya Tagaq and other Indigenous and Inuit people have been super engaged in since this RIDM fiasco happened.
Yes, I mean, we’re expected to be experts on everything. For instance, I’m a documentary filmmaker so I feel like it’s my job to think about my society, its place in our country, the state of my culture and my people and the issues we face, so I’m in that headspace already anyway. But someone like Tanya Taqaq who’s a vocal artist, she should not have to be an expert on filmmaking and what working with found footage means, etc.
And you know, she shouldn’t have to be a warrior on behalf of our entire people all the time. She does it, thank goodness for her and her willingness to do that, because she has the platform to do it. People listen when she speaks, so it’s wonderful that she does, but it sucks that she has to. It’s unfair and it sucks. And until we have Indigenous issues and history and culture taught in all the schools from preschool on, it won’t change.
It is great to see what’s happening out west now, there are a couple of universities that are putting in mandatory Indigenous Studies courses, which is wonderful to see. I hope that happens across the board from preschool through to post-grad studies.
Until we have that, then I have to be pretty well versed on just about anything I can think of, and when something comes up in the news that feels unfair, that doesn’t feel right, I have to scurry and read as much as I can about it and find academic articles coming from other Indigenous people’s perspectives or from other people of colour—I have to look that up as quick as I can.
We don’t already have those discussions written down from Inuit society, I learn and borrow from other marginalized peoples and study up on it, the terminology used and schools of thought, and it’s extremely helpful to be able to do that. But that’s just the way life is and I hope that as the school systems change—and I think they are changing gradually—then hopefully that burden will be less for my son than it is for me.
* This interview has been edited for clarity and length. A full-length version will be published as part of the “Ethically Suspect” project by Shannon Walsh and Ezra Winton in 2016-17.
Alethea Arnaquq-Baril is an Inuit filmmaker from the Canadian arctic where she runs Unikkaat Studios Inc. In her award-winning APTN documentary Tunniit: Retracing the Lines of Inuit Tattoos (ImagineNATIVE 2011 premiere) Alethea traveled across the arctic to speak with elders about Inuit tattoo practices and the causes of their near disappearance, before getting her own traditional face tattoos.
Alethea directed the well-traveled ICSL short “Inuit High Kick”, and co-produced with White Pine Pictures “Experimental Eskimos”, a Barry Greenwald feature documentary (Hot Docs, DGC Allan King Award 2010). Alethea directed the NFB animation “Lumaajuuq: The Blind Boy and the Loon” (Best Canadian Short Drama – imagineNATIVE 2010, Golden Sheaf Award for Best Aboriginal – Yorkton 2011).
Alethea directed the animated short “Sloth”, one of 15 shorts selected by renowned film programmer Danny Lennon for Telefilm’s Perspective Canada screenings at the Cannes Film Market. Alethea was also an executive producer on Miranda de Pencier’s award-winning Throat Song, produced by Stacey Aglok MacDonald (TIFF 2012 premiere, Canadian Screen Award – Best Live Action Short Drama, Academy Awards shortlist 2014).
Alethea co-produced Arctic Defenders, a feature documentary by John Walker (nominee for DGC Allan King Award 2014, Best Doc – Atlantic Film Fest). Most recently, Alethea directed Aviliaq: Entwined as part of the Embargo Project, premiering at ImagineNATIVE 2014. Currently, Alethea is directing Angry Inuk (NFB co-production in association with EyeSteelFilm) a feature doc for broadcast on Superchannel about how Inuit are coming up with new and provocative ways to deal with international seal hunting controversies.
Ezra Winton is Assistant Professor of Film Studies at Concordia University and holds a PhD in Communication Studies from Carleton University. His research and teaching interests include film festivals, Indigenous and alternative media, as well as social movements, and documentary cinema, institutions and culture.
Ezra is the co-founder and Director of Programming of Cinema Politica, the world’s largest grassroots documentary screening network, and is a contributing editor at POV Magazine and Art Threat. Recent publications include Challenge for Change: Activist Documentary at the National Film Board of Canada (2010, with Tom Waugh and Michael Brendan Baker) and Screening Truth to Power: A Reader on Documentary Activism (2014, with Svetla Turnin). He is currently working on a monograph for University of Toronto Press that looks at Alanis Obomsawin’s classic documentary Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance.