Now & Next Podcast S2E3 – Voice First, Tech Second: Filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin

Internationally acclaimed documentary filmmaker and all-around accomplished artist Alanis Obomsawin joins Leora Kornfeld in the studio to discuss how she works, making documentaries today, and what keeps her optimistic.

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Tech Matters, but Voice Prevails: Acclaimed Filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin

This episode presents an in-depth conversation with acclaimed documentary filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin, one of the world’s most notable Indigenous filmmakers. She has made over fifty films over the span of her fifty-year career. Her documentary on the 1990 Oka Crisis is among her most widely known works. Now in her late eighties, Alanis has not slowed down. Her 53rd film, Jordan River Anderson, The Messenger, premiered at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival. It also won the ‘Best Canadian Documentary’ award at the 2019 Vancouver International Film Festival.

A lot has changed in the world of documentaries since Alanis Obomsawin started making films in the 1960s, and much of that change has occurred in the last few years. We are now in the midst of a documentary gold rush, with streaming services and on-demand video platforms opening up new avenues for a genre previously relegated to limited theatrical releases, home video or DVD—and maybe one or two broadcast slots. As a result, we’re seeing documentaries become bona fide hits and some bring in well into the eight figures at the box office. It’s a truly unusual phenomenon in the doc world.

So, what does an iconic documentarian make of all the changes afoot in the world not just of documentary, but of media and technology in general? Find out in this episode of Now & Next as we focus the spotlight on Alanis Obomsawin.

In this episode you’ll hear about:

  • How Alanis Obomsawin views the role of documentary filmmakers today (4:15)
  • Her relationship with new technologies (5:26)
  • How tech affects the sacredness of the movie-watching experience (10:52)
  • What keeps her hopeful for the future (17:11)

Download a transcript of the episode

Dig deeper

  • Watch Alanis Obomsawin’s films on the National Film Board’s website
  • Speaking of the NFB, the organization has curated a playlist of some of Obomsawin’s “most influential and powerful” films as part of a tribute to the filmmaker
  • And, for good measure, here’s another curated list of films by Alanis Obomsawin, this time by writer Julie Matlin, on the NFB’s blog
  • Listen to 50 years of Indigenous Cinema: The Impact of Alanis Obomsawin on CBC’s Unreserved
  • Listen to ‘This is why I revolt’: How Alanis Obomsawin’s painful childhood experiences inform her filmmaking on CBC’s The Current
  • Read The Doc Uptick: In a Post-Truth World, Documentary Comes to the Fore by Now & Next host Leora Kornfeld on CMF Trends
  • Read Where Do Documentary Dollars Come From, also by Leora Kornfeld, on CMF Trends
  • Check out CMF Trends’ coverage of documentary filmmaking
  • See a Montreal mural by artist Meky Ottawa that pays homage to Alanis Obomsawin on Art Public Montréal’s website


Clips used with the National Film Board’s permission

About Now & Next

Now & Next is a podcast featuring in-depth interviews in which experts take a closer look at emerging trends and the digital transformation of the media and entertainment industries. Now & Next is brought to you by the Canada Media Fund, produced by Katie Jensen and recorded in Toronto at Vocal Fry Studios. Leora Kornfeld hosts the series.

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