#VIWFF2020 Blog 6: “Unceded Chiefs” Film Review

VIWFF2020 Blog 6: “Unceded Chiefs” Film Review

Written by: Katrina Mugume

Doreen Manuel, renowned documentary filmmaker and director, is set to be a highlight feature at this year’s Vancouver International Women in Film Festival with her powerful new documentary aptly titled “Unceded Chiefs”. This multi dimensional film addresses the events of the late 1960’s– a monumental period of Indigenous representation on the political stage– particularly the Union of BC Chiefs and their community’s rejection of the White Paper Indian Policy of Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau. 

Doreen Manuel speaks on the accounts of her father, Chief George Manuel, as recorded from a personal diary he kept while leading the National Indian Brotherhood. Her questions about his life at this time take the film on a journey in conversation with other living attendees and the children of fellow Chiefs. 

A fascinating history of endurance is built on the nuanced blending of found footage, archival audio and animated transitions which anchor the reality of the two worlds while bold and factual talking heads offer the audience an education on the white paper and its ongoing environmental and socio-economic consequences. 

The most unexpected gift of this film however, is that in the midst of addressing hard issues, are the compelling stories of family, difficult sacrifice, mentorship and resilience. An ode to the resolute legacy of aboriginal community values. This film calls upon Canadians to arm themselves with information and stand united in the ongoing fight for Aboriginal legal rights. 

–Katrina Mugume

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