Montreal film festival apologizes for screening ‘racist’ film last year

A year after it screened a film that Inuit panned as a proliferation of negative stereotypes, a Montreal film festival has issued an apology.

In a news release issued Thursday, organizers of the Montreal International Documentary Festival (RIDM) apologized “for having presented a film with a colonial perspective that perpetuates racist stereotypes.” 

The film in question, of the North, is a 74-minute collage film about modern day life in Northern Canada, was screened at the festival last November.

The original version of director Dominic Gagnon’s film was made up of publicly available clips drawn from the Internet, mixing images of snow, Ski-Doos and hunting with clips of Inuit appearing drunk, crashing ATVs and vomiting.

Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq took the festival to task for showing the film, which she called “painful and racist.”

She also said her music was used in the film without her consent. It was later taken out.

Unanimous condemnation

The festival organized a panel discussion last week entitled “Indigenous Videographers Shoot Back,” and invited Mohawk, Ojibwa, Abenaki and Inuit filmmakers, journalists and academics.

The speakers unanimously condemned the film and the festival for screening it, prompting organizers to apologize.

Charlotte Selb, who was the festival’s programming director at the time and who stood behind the decision to screen the film, added her name to the apology. 

Organizers say they will “take steps to improve its consideration of problematic points of view during the festival’s curation.”

Earlier this year, the film’s distributor apologized to the Inuit community.

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