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#TIFF20 Review: Inconvenient Indian (TIFF Docs)

September 14, 2020

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Inspired by Thomas King’s autobiographical 2012 book The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America, the documentary Inconvenient Indian takes a very unconventional approach to adapting the source material. Using King’s book as the jumping off point, director Michelle Latimer has instead crafted a collage of images and sounds to explore centuries of colonization in its many forms, and the history of First Nations representation on screen.

The film finds King, who provides the voiceover narration, being driven around Toronto in a taxi, with the driver (Gail Maurice) being a traditional “trickster” figure dressed as a coyote. King is dropped off at the Fox Theatre, where he settles in with a crowd of Indigenous people to watch stereotypical portrayals of Native people play out on the screen. From here, the film goes off in multiple directions, as King’s traditional storytelling provides a loose narrative backbone.

Latimer mixes elements of music, dance, and visual art to show how a new generation are reclaiming Native stories and traditional customs. The film illustrates this through appearances from the musical group A Tribe Called Red, the visual artist Kent Monkman, and the filmmakers Alethea Arnaquq-Baril and Nyla Innuksuk. We also go out onto the ice with a hunter in Iqaluit as he stalks a seal, providing food for his community.

It’s an unconventional approach to documentary filmmaking, eschewing expert interviews and talking heads for something much looser and more free-flowing. The film is ultimately as much a companion piece to King’s book as it is it’s own thing, offering a thought provoking exploration of culture and identity that redefines the rules for both literary adaptations and documentaries.

Public Screenings:

Saturday, September 12th – 4:45 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

Saturday, September 12th – 5:15 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

Sunday, September 13th – 6:00 PM at Bell Digital Cinema (Online for 24 Hours)

Thursday, September 17th – 5:00 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

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