Photo by: Nadya Kwandibens
Last year, RIDM, the Montreal International Documentary Festival, presented two screenings of Quebec filmmaker Dominic Gagnon's of the North. Gagnon's film cuts from 500 hours of YouTube and other publicly available footage by amateur Inuit filmmakers, creating a 74-minute collage that prominently features clips of drunk Inuit men wrestling, vomiting, and crashing a four wheeler. The film drew sharp and widespread criticism for perpetuating negative racial stereotypes for the creator's own artistic gain. Tanya Tagaq, whose music was used without permission (and subsequently removed), called of the North "painful and racist." And, today, the hurt it caused still requires reconciliation.
On November 17 — the same day the festival issued an apology for presenting "a film with a colonial perspective that perpetuates racist stereotypes" — POP Montreal had planned a showcase in conjunction with the doc fest featuring local bands Lungbutter, The Submissives, Heathers & DJ Sivani. The bands unanimously decided not to play the show within the festival program (it was moved elsewhere) in protest of last year's screening, the festival's relative silence until provoked by non-Indigenous artists, and what the Facebook event organizer describes as a "dismissive and racist statement made in response to Tanya Tagaq's criticisms." As a result, they weren't paid.
Now, the performers, joined by Tanya Tagaq, are asking RIDM to puts its money where its mouth is regarding reconcilliation. In an open letter addressed to RIDM, the coallition asks festival organizers to donate the total artists' fees ($1050; $300 for each band and $150 for the DJ) to an Indigenous community organization of their choosing.
"We believe that this financial donation will help to repair the hurt RIDM caused throughout this controversy," the statement reads. "It is also a concrete step, albeit a small one, toward the crucial task of reconciliation in this country."
You can read the group's full statement below and find the open letter here.