2 September – 4 November 2023

To move between: Healing and Resistance

Move to the beat of the dream, which is also the heart, which is also a drum.

The work of Alanis Obomsawin emerges from her life experience and a profound commitment to listening hard and hearing the hard truths that can surface in this process. Growing up in Canada in the middle of the 20th century, she was often faced with structures of disempowerment. Obomsawin has sought to carve out an alternate experience for her community by developing a model of filmmaking that captures humanity’s fullness.

Being in-relation is fundamental to the work of Obomsawin and this engenders fullness. If we consider the heart-drum as a way to measure relationships, then we are invited to consider relationships as being interdependent and bound to the potential of all beings: those that have gone before and those that are yet to come. No beat is heard alone, and it is this approach that clearly manifests the potential of Indigenous filmmaking. Continuing with this thinking, each of the four films included in this exhibition contain within them all the communities she has engaged with since beginning work at the National Film Board of Canada in 1967. That is to say, while each of these films tells a specific story of a specific place they also incite transformation that moves from the screen back into facets of life.

The facets of life we encounter in this selection of films navigate indisputable relationality: when this happens, that happens. In Poundmaker’s Lodge: A Healing Place (1987) we are presented with the deep impact of an Indigenous-run addiction and mental health facility; in Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance (1993), we are provided with a critical Indigenous view of an illegal occupation of land; Sigwan (2005), follows a young girl as she experiences alienation and reconnection with non-human relatives; We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice (2016) provides insight into inequities of the care system as it follows a decade-long court case filed by the Assembly of First Nations and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada against the federal government of Canada.

Starkly opposed to the dehumanisation that happens through colonial violence—as experienced in Canada and in Aotearoa New Zealand—Obomsawin enacts the full potential of meaningful relationships to galvanise educators, healthcare providers, families, and politicians to reconsider ingrained hegemonic, often disembodied, value systems. When we reflect on processes of administration—of accessing and participating in life—what value systems are serviced by these and which aren’t? Does this value system reflect, not even so much who we are, but who we wish to be? In this act of galvanising, Obomsawin fuses the sense of resistance unequivocally with the capacity of healing in order to play her beat. The beat she plays is: this world can be just, this world can be just.

Our programme 2023

This year we explore the question “where does my body belong?” To have a body is a pre-existing condition we all live with and in, and spend our lives coming to know what this could mean. While we are all born with a body, each body comes with its own unique capacity and limitations. The whether or how these capacities and limits unfold is greatly determined by the society into which we emerge. This year we consider the vast range of what it is to have a body, be a body, and participate within the systems that enlarge or confine us in the dynamic friction of our daily life.


Alanis Obomsawin is a member of the Abenaki Nation and one of Canada’s most distinguished filmmakers, and leader of the Indigenous struggle. Alanis Obomsawin is a director and producer at the National Film Board of Canada, where she has worked since 1967. Her upcoming films are Wabano: The Light of the Day and The Green Horse(working title). These films will be her 56th and 57th films in a career now spanning 56 years, devoted to chronicling the lives and concerns of First Nations people and exploring issues of importance to all. Her body of work includes such landmark films as Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance (1993), documenting the 1990 Kanien’kéhaka (Mohawk) uprising in Kanehsatake and Oka, as well as her groundbreaking Incident at Restigouche (1984), a behind-the-scenes look at Quebec police raids on a Mi’kmaq reserve. This year Obomsawin will receive the Edward MacDowell Medal, recognizing individuals who have made significant cultural contributions. She is the first woman filmmaker to receive this award in its 63-year history. In 2021, the Toronto International Film Festival presented Obomsawin with the Jeff Skoll Award in Impact Media, recognising leadership in creating a union between social impact and cinema. In 2020, Obomsawin received the Rogers-DOC Luminary Award at the DOC Institute Awards, in addition to the Glenn Gould Prize.

Edith Amituanai is a New Zealand-born Sāmoan photographer working from the suburb of Ranui, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. From interiors to driveways to communities, Amituanai’s practice is concerned with the environments that shape who we are. She was the inaugural recipient of the Marti Friedlander Photography Award, and the following year was the first Walters Prize nominee of Pacific descent. In 2019 she staged her first major survey exhibition at Te Pātaka Toi Adam Art Gallery in Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington and has exhibited widely in Aotearoa and internationally. Amituanai is a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to photography and community and her work is held in numerous collections including Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and Queensland Art Gallery).

Whetū Fala, of Ngā Rauru, Ngāti Maru, Ngāti Maniapoto, Te Ati Haunui-ā-Papārang, Samoa, and Rotuma, is a storyteller who creates Indigenous media content for local and international audiences from her hometown of Whanganui. Her work as a director, producer, actor, writer and editor has screened on NITV Australia, CBC Canada, SVT Sampi Sweden, Whakaata Māori and also includes film festivals ImagineNative Toronto, Winda Film Festival Sydney Australia and Māorilands, Wairoa Māori film festivals. Whetū is currently working on completing her feature documentary Taki Rua - Breaking Barriers which tells the story of Aoteaora New Zealand’s first bi-cultural theatre.

Slow Boil was co-created by kaupapa Māori community group and kai security advocates Boil Up Crew and a group of contributing practitioners spanning architecture, community advocacy, design, food sovereignty, software and the visual arts. A series of wānanga were held throughout the duration of the eponymous exhibition held at Artspace Aotearoa in 2021 that focused on the question of how the sharing of kai can transform how we conceive of knowledge, resilience and mana motuhake? From this starting point, new works were collectively produced and installed in the exhibition space alongside a cinema programme and existing investigative works by Forensic Architecture.

Monika Kin Gagnon is Professor of Communication Studies at Concordia University, Montreal. She has published widely on cultural politics as well as visual and experimental arts since the 1980s.