Alanis Obomsawin’s latest documentary is a must see. Our People Will Be Healed provides the perfect opportunity to connect on a deeply personal level with the First Nations experience. As a Canadian who should probably have a better understanding of what is going on in other provinces – not to mention my own – this documentary was a great jumping off point.
Like most great documentaries, there is a great hook in the form of Norway House Cree Nation, a community more than 450km north of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Alanis begins with a school in the community and you can’t help but be disarmed by the children’s testimonials. Hearing how this community and school helped and will help them become confident people with goals they never thought they’d have before is truly affecting.
The documentary doesn’t rely on testimonials to demonstrate how effective the community is. We get to spend time with students who are keeping their culture alive through Cree lessons at a young age. We get to see the older students take part in science class and music classes. There are also scenes featuring youth on a canoe trip. All of this helps to make it clear why one student says they would take the school with them to Winnipeg if they could.
The documentary continues to provide a slice of life focusing on Norway House community members, however, it also expands its scope to incorporate the history of multiple generations related to the community in addition to some history involving the Hudson’s Bay Company and Canada in general.
The strength of Our People Will Be Healed is in the way that Obomsawin can mix serene imagery and stories of community and perseverance while never letting the audience forget the sobering circumstances First Nations people have faced and continue to face to this day. There was a lot of new information for me and some helpful reminders throughout without leaving me feeling depressed at the end of the film.