There’s been a great deal of discussion in recent years about the past and ongoing injustices suffered by the indigenous community. As there should be. From suicide epidemics to systemic racism to the alarming number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women to the over-representation of Aboriginal men in Canadian prisons, the challenges of the First Nations people need our attention. Frankly, not enough consideration is paid to the resilience and ingenuity of these communities.
In The Road Forward, director Marie Clements does not shy away from these injustices. She simply chooses to focus on hope for the future by paying tribute to Native resourcefulness and activism of the past and present. She spends a lot of time with key members of the Native Brotherhood and Sisterhood of British Columbia, both of whom have a rich history of fighting for better health care, education, and living conditions for Native people. Special attention is paid to the Native Voice, a newspaper serving BC communities at a time when it was illegal for Native people to meet.
Fortunately, we don’t need to look too far into the past for inspiring role models. Clements interviews at least a dozen contemporary artists, musicians, and activists. One of the more powerful sequences in the film is a montage of them describing the world they would like to leave behind for future generations. Her homage to strong Native voices, however, doesn’t need to rely on talking head interviews and archive footage alone. The collective pain, strength, and hope is best represented by six or seven musical performances of original rock and country songs as well as traditional beats.
As a documentary, The Road Forward is relatively light on information. If you’re looking for a comprehensive history of Canada’s First Nations people, there have been lots of other books and documentaries on the subject. The Road Forward is more concerned with celebrating a culture that has helped victims of unspeakable injustice emerge as survivors and in that respect it is an unquestionably effective documentary.
Sunday, October 22, 7:15 PM, 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