By Bree Duwyn
Alanis Obomsawin’s latest documentary is an eloquently produced film that shines a light on Jordan’s Principle, a law that states Canada must provide necessary and vital services to Indigenous children who require it.
“Everything is important to me that I’ve worked on,” said Obomsawin in an interview with CanCulture. She hopes that people take from her films the realization that an injustice of Indigenous people has been going on for many generations.
A compassionate and raw production, Obomsawin beautifully strives to share stories of multiple Indigenous families in their journey towards receiving equal care for their youth. On her quest to tell pressing Indigenous stories, for her 53rd film, Obomsawin opens eyes with the story of Jordan River Anderson.
“When it comes to children, I have a very important place for children in my heart and this is what I’m most interested in,” Obomsawin explained as to why she chose a story like Jordan’s.
Jordan River Anderson, The Messenger delves deep into Indigenous families who are left behind when federal and provincial governments fail to come to a decision over health care bills. The documentary is entitled Jordan River Anderson as a namesake; Jordan River Anderson, a deceased six-year-old boy from Norway House Cree First Nation. The film shows his journey — a life spent entirely in a hospital.
“There is a lot of — in some cases — a lot of danger or difficulties to be able to do these stories. They’re very important because at the end of it, they can make people think differently,” said Obomsawin on why she feels her films are an integral part of revealing to an audience a variety of Indigenous issues.
There is sentiment and moments of empathy throughout, as well as a definitive strong drive present in the threads of this film. It establishes hope and a voice for Indigenous children through the meaningful contributions of advocates like Cindy Blackstock, executive director of First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada.
Obomsawin claims the main importance when it comes to watching her documentaries is to listen with an open ear and ready perspective. Very invested in the production of her documentary, Obomsawin explains she did a lot of research, as well as sitting in on courtroom discussions.
Not only is Jordan’s story shared, with compelling home video footage that gives you a sense of how wonderful Jordan was, but other Indigenous youth and their families are represented, sharing their unique and individual stories of their personal journeys all while elaborating on how Jordan’s Principle helped them to receive the care and support they needed. One instance that captures a moment of injustice is the plight of one family who are denied medical care solely for living on a reservation.
Working on this film since 2011, she notes that the story had to be put together in a way that the audience can understand and see what the story truly is in order to learn from what she has to say.
In a mere 65 minutes, Obomsawin is able to engage the audience with joyous videos of Jordan strumming a guitar synthesizer that imitates sounds he is able to feel and connect with. She is able to warm the hearts of viewers while also barring her own. There is strength in this piece, the film speaks truth and grit all while asking why these issues are taking place, but also determining how to move forward.
“To see the result and finally to see all those families received help, to better their lives, it is very important. It is very profound and encouraging to know that it is possible to get justice,” said Obomsawin.