Tasha Hubbard’s Birth of a Family documents the first meeting of a family torn asunder by racist government policies, decades after their separation. As infants, Betty Ann, Esther, Rosalie, and Ben were taken from their indigenous mother and placed into separate white homes across North America as part of Canada’s “Sixties Scoop”. The story of Birth of a Family is a story of cultural identity, family, and the unintended consequences of the “good” intentions of those in charge.
The film covers only a single week. Though in their fifties and sixties, the family members have never all met, as it was very common for information on the children of the Sixties Scoop to be sparse or unavailable. Now that they have found each other, they are spending a week in Bannf National Park to visit and share stories about their upbringing and memories of their mother. They also want to learn more about the culture they were plucked from (or, more accurately, that was plucked from them). They never experienced their own language, customs, and ideas, so they are trying to now.
The majority of Birth of a Family is shot in a fly-on-the-wall style by Hubbard. Hand-held cameras show the family members interacting throughout the week. Hubbard captures the mundane elements of every family vacation: planning what to do, walking through gift shops, sitting on benches. But each family member is also interviewed, a process which always elicits tears. She also allows the camera to be still as the family discusses the big ideas of the film, round-table style. They talk about their culture being taken from them, the bizarre tension between knowing they were raised by good families and still lamenting that they were taken in the first place. Each one of them struggles to find a balance between these two ideas, with different mixtures of anger and understanding.
But for all the lamentations, Birth of a Family is primarily about reclamation. These people recognize the damage that has been done to them, but they endeavor to correct as much of it as they can – starting with family.
Thursday, October 19, 11 AM, TIFF Bell Lightbox
Ticket information can be found at the imagineNATIVE website.
This review was original published as part of our 2017 Hot Docs coverage.