TORONTO – Canadian film and TV star Adam Beach says he’s leased 10 channels from an online broadcast company and hopes to provide a slate of indigenous programming by and for the aboriginal community.
Beach says the venture with the New York-based OpenVision Networks is in early stages but that he’s already stocked his channels with Canadian fare including the defunct APTN drama “Moccasin Flats” and his old Showcase comedy, “Moose TV.”
“This is where we as native people are now taking our own control of our work,” Beach said in a recent phone interview from his home in Los Angeles.
“Basically, what I provide is, any native director or artist (that has) any native media sitting in their library somewhere, they send it to me and I put it on the network for free and we’re worldwide.”
Beach says that material on ovntv.com is streamed and not available for download, but one of his immediate goals is to set up pay-per-view streaming of live events like boxing, along with short, original dramas. The main goal is to provide a platform for aboriginal material.
“I want to open up my on-demand channel so I could distribute our own native movies because a lot of the theatres don’t give a hoot about what we provide,” said Beach, currently filming a multi-episode story arc on HBO’s “Big Love.”
The grand plans come as the actor – who is originally from Winnipeg – appears in the opening night film of the ImagineNative Film+Media Arts Festival, celebrating its 10th anniversary Wednesday in Toronto.
The documentary “Reel Injun” profiles the so-called “Hollywood Indian” and his various incarnations on the big screen. Cree director Neil Diamond, from the James Bay community of Waskaganish, criss-crosses Canada and the United States while examining cinematic classics like “Little Big Man” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Along the way, he talks to celebrities including Beach, Robbie Robertson, Clint Eastwood, Graham Greene, and Jim Jarmusch about the evolution of indigenous people on film.
Festival programmer Michelle Latimer says it’s a particularly a propos topic for this year’s ImagineNative festival, which reaches a benchmark birthday after significant changes of its own.
“I remember first attending the festival and the program books were very small and the festival wasn’t very well known and now it’s just blown up,” Latimer says of the five-day movie marathon, billed as the largest indigenous fest in the world.
“In the last, I would say five years or so there’s really been an explosion on the international scene. Probably one of the more notable moments being when ‘Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner)’ won a lot of critical acclaim at Cannes…. Many times in the past our stories have been told through others and this is a time when we’re almost reclaiming the medium of film to tell our stories.”
The upcoming festival slate includes more than 125 different works, among them features, documentaries, animated and live action shorts, radio productions and multimedia works. Projects come from Nepal, Brazil, Bolivia, Russia, Philippines, New Zealand, Australia, Finland, Panama and the United States.
Canadian offerings include the Inuit hunting story “Tungijuq,” a short film from the production team behind “Atanarjuat.” It stars throat singer Tanya Tagaq and filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk, who will receive a lifetime achievement award at the festival. Documentary pioneer Alanis Obomsawin brings her NFB production, “Professor Norman Cornett,” about the unorthodox McGill instructor fired from his job in 2007 amid strongly divergent views on his teaching methods.
Obomsawin says she’s impressed by the growing number of aboriginal filmmakers, and the new generation’s experimental and multimedia creations.
The 77-year-old filmmaker says she’s juggling several projects and that her own drive to create and document the world around her is as strong as ever.
“I am very passionate about it and for me, from Day 1, my main interest was always education,” Obomsawin said by phone from Odanak, Que., where she was working on a short film to help mark the NFB’s 70th anniversary.
“It’s wonderful to be able to make films and prepare a better place for the other children that are coming after us, and even those that are not here yet. These are my reasons. I feel that when you can influence changes for a better place, I think I could never do enough.”
ImagineNative runs Oct. 14 to 18 in Toronto.
On the Net: http://www.imaginenative.org