Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavik November 22, 2016 - 7:00 am

Montreal film fest apologizes for supporting controversial film

Organization acknowledges film "perpetuates racist stereotypes"

SARAH ROGERS
The Montreal International Documentary Festival has apologized for its support of Dominic Gagnon’s of the North.
The Montreal International Documentary Festival has apologized for its support of Dominic Gagnon’s of the North.

A year after the Montreal International Documentary Festival first aired the controversy film of the North, the organization has apologized for showing a film that “perpetuates racist stereotypes.”

Montreal filmmaker Dominic Gagnon produced of the North by assembling a collection of video clips he harvested online, including a number of YouTube clips from northern and Inuit communities.

Many of the clips portrayed violence, addiction and nudity, resulting in a narrative that many said degraded and grossly misrepresented Inuit.

The apology came after the festival, known in Quebec as Rencontres Internationales du Documentaire Montréal, or RIDM, hosted a public panel discussion Nov. 12 with Indigenous filmmakers about the ethics around the creation of Gagnon’s film.

The festival was prompted to respond when an audience member asked the organization if it still stood behind its decision to show the film.

“After a process of reflection, after listening, discussing and consulting with many people, including Inuit and members of First Nations, the RIDM recognizes that it was wrong to present the film of the North in 2015,” the festival said in a Nov. 17 release.

“The RIDM officially apologizes for its mistake, and for its initial response to the criticism it received.”

The festival initially defended its decision to show the film.

But criticism towards the film mounted through early 2016, with threats of a lawsuit and a petition demanding other film festivals refuse to show the self-described documentary.

By March, the film had gone black:  74 minutes of total blackness and silence.

The festival’s senior management apologized for showing a film “with a colonial perspective that perpetuates racist stereotypes” and committed itself to better dialogue and inclusion moving forward.

The film’s critics welcomed the apology, but note that there are a number of other Quebec organizations who supported the film, including the Quebec government agency Société de développement des entreprises culturelles, which awarded the filmmaker a $30,000 grant.

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