NFB hits production-spending target for Indigenous-led works

The public producer also gave a comprehensive update on a 40-project slate of Indigenous works, including titles from Michelle Latimer and Kim O'Bomsawin.

nakotaTwo years after pledging to direct at least 15% (around $2 million) of its production spending to Indigenous-led projects by 2020, the National Film Board (NFB) says it has reached its target a year ahead of schedule.

To mark the milestone, the public producer provided a comprehensive update on a packed, 40-strong slate of projects that are either in development, production or have recently been released.

Among those is Michelle Latimer’s feature-length documentary The Inconvenient Indian, which is wrapping production shortly. Based on Thomas King’s bestselling book, The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America explores what it means to be “Indian” in North America. It is coproduced by the NFB and 90th Parallel, with Indigenous Screen Office director Jesse Wente serving as a creative producer. The project wraps as another of Latimer’s projects, The Trickster (Sienna Films), gets off the ground. The hour-long scripted drama, co-created by Latimer and Tony Elliott, was greenlit by CBC last month. 

In 2017, the NFB released a three-year action plan aimed at increasing Indigenous representation across its workforce and upping the level of funding distributed to Indigenous-led projects. At the time, it said around 9% of its annual production budget was being directed toward Indigenous projects. That total increased just slightly to 10% in 2018.

While the organization has now reached its target in terms of production spend, it is still working its way toward a number of other goals. Namely, to increase Indigenous representation across its entire workforce. Currently, Indigenous employees represent 1.25% of all staff, with a goal of increasing that to 4% by 2025.

Meanwhile, Urban.Indigenous.Proud, a series of  five short films produced in collaboration with the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres, is set to premiere tomorrow. The newly announced project explores urban Indigenous culture and lived experiences within five Friendship Centre communities.

Elsewhere, Kim O’Bomsawin is in production on Nin, Auass, a feature doc portrait of the experience of early childhood in the communities of Pessamit, Manawan and Whapmagoostui, while Alanis Obomsawin continues to work on her 53rd film, Jordan’s Principle (working title). Obomsawin’s latest project documents the story of a five-year-old Indigenous boy, Jordan River Anderson, who died in a hospital from a rare disease amid provincial and federal squabbling over who would pay for his housing.

The NFB also highlighted Tasha Hubbard’s nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up, which earlier this year became the first Indigenous film to open Hot Docs, and Angelina McLeod’s recently completed short doc series Freedom Road.