This theme focuses on the ways in which Aboriginal peoples have been represented in NFB documentaries. Film excerpts illustrate how the representation of Aboriginal peoples has evolved over the last fifty years.


Healing with Humour - The depiction of Aboriginal people has run the gamut; from the early days when non-Aboriginal actors were costumed and made up to appear Aboriginal, to the depiction of various tribal groups as cultural oddities. This theme explores how cinema has played a part in shaping Native and non-Native perceptions of one another. It also examines the evolution of filmmaking from a Native perspective, describing how Native people, who started as subjects in the films, have now become writers, producers and directors of the films.

Healing with humour is a common approach to dealing with issues in Aboriginal communities and dealing with the stereotypical depiction of Native people in film is no exception. It’s easy now to laugh at the early depictions of Indians in the cowboy movies or the early documentaries recounting the life of the Eskimo in his igloo. These images have made way for a more contemporary depiction of the Native character, where Natives now speak their own lines and can be heroes rather than villains. To have input into how Aboriginal people are depicted in the media is an important step in the Aboriginals’ struggle to regain control over their culture.

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