Critical Writing Index

Aboriginal Screen Culture: celebrating 10 years of imagineNATIVE

by Dana Claxton

Toronto: V tape, 2009

ISBN 978-0-9734831-8-5

This publication accompanied "Aboriginal Screen Culture," a program of Indigenous dramatic filmmaking curated by Dana Claxton for the 2009 imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival.

An introduction by Lisa Steele, titled "heartalk: reflecting on imagineNATIVE," describes Dana Claxton's curatorial ethos and the program's goal of revealing and defining "aboriginal screen culture." Steele uses the portmanteau "hearttalk" (heart/hear/talk) to gesture to the heartfelt motivations behind the project as well as the qualities of Claxton's writing voice. The introduction contextualizes the screening as marking the 10th anniversary of imagineNATIVE, and notes that the twelve works selected by Claxton all screened in previous iterations of the festival.

Dana Claxton's essay defines "Aboriginal screen culture" in relation to the selection of films as media which presents "an aboriginal aesthetic, essence, experience or worldview", an expansive categorization that gestures to an ongoing process of self-definition taken up by Indigenous artists, filmmakers and cultural producers. Claxton situates each of dramatic works within their discursive and cultural context.

Claxton suggests that the collective scope of the program speaks to the multiplicity and complexity of Indigenous experiences. She describes the varied subject matter of the included films as including "historical acts of violence, family love, spirit work, traditional practices, contemporary realities, vast landscapes and living off the land, experimental narrative, humour and irony”. A shared thread she identifies throughout all the works is a commitment to Indigenous self-representation through art, and a difficult reckoning with the severe trauma of colonialism which co-exists with celebration of Indigenous ways of life. Claxton suggests that filmmaking can serve as a form of cathartic release for this trauma.

Claxton's focus on dramatic filmmaking by Indigenous artists in the construction of the program led to an interest in their production methodologies and the possibility of "practicing living cultural philosophies in all areas of production" by the incorporation of traditional Indigenous teachings and ways of being into on-set working processes as well as on-screen content.

"Aboriginal screen culture" as defined by Claxton is inherently varied and diverse in its manifestations, not tied to any one particular mode of production or representational model. Claxton concludes by speaking to the capacity and potential of Indigenous cultural production as a powerful tool to preserve, honour and share Indigenous knowledges, cosmologies and experiences.

The publication also contains programme notes for each of the twelve films included in the screening and biographies of the filmmakers and curator.

ITEM 2009.175 – available for viewing in the Research Centre

Videos, Artworks and Artists Cited

Heartalk: reflecting on imagineNATIVELisa Steele

Aboriginal Screen Culture: Celebrating 10 years of imagineNATIVEDana Claxton

Honey MoccasinShelley Niro

Blood RiverKent Monkman

Atanarjuat: The Fast RunnerZacharias Kunuk

BearwalkerShirley Cheechoo

SkinsChris Eyre

Prayer for a Good DayZoe Ballentyne

For Cherry EnglishJeff Barnaby

The Traveler's BonesTravis Shillings

The Winter ChillPaul Rickard

133 SkywayRandy Redroad

Four Sheets to the WindSterlin Harjo

Older than AmericaGeorgina Lightning