Skip To Content

Asinabka Film Festival programs fresh and dynamic work from across the world

By Alessandro Marcon on August 8, 2017







Asinabka is an annual Indigenous film and media arts festival taking place here in Algonquin territory from August 9-13. This year will be the 6th edition, and like all previous years, expect fresh and dynamic content not only from Canada but all across the world. To highlight some aspects of this year’s rendition we interviewed Asinabka co-director, Howard Adler.

Q: Awesome logo for this year’s Asinabaka! Can you tell us a bit about it?

A: The design for our festival this year was done by Anishinaabe Artist Nyle Johnston from Chippewas of Nawash First Nation. One of the things we like to do each year is to invite one of the artists that are participating in our festival, to custom create a design for us to use in our promotional material. Nyle is a tattoo artist with the new Inkdigenous Tattoo shop based in Toronto, and we’re excited that Inkdigenous will be onsite offering up custom tattoos at Gallery 101 on August 12 as a part of our Art Gallery Opening and Music Event.

Asinabka 2017 logo

Asinabka 2017 logo by Anishinaabe Artist Nyle Johnston from Chippewas of Nawash First Nation.

Q: Kicking off the fest in the customary manner is an outdoor screening at Victoria Island. You’ll be showing “Rumble: The Indians who rocked the world.” What are 5 words you’d use to describe this film?

A: Mind-blowing. Oral-History. Rock n’ Roll. Black-Indigeniety. Toxic-masculinity.

Q: Asinabka is an international fest. How many different countries are represented? Are some countries going to be represented at Asinabka for the first time?

A: It tends to vary each year in terms of how much international representation we have, and which International Indigenous Nations we feature. This year we’re doing a spotlight on Films from the Yunnan Province in China, and we’ll have a delegation of three Chinese academics from the University of Yunnan who will be doing a Seminar on Minority Group filmmaking from Yunnan. We’re also presenting a Program of Maori and Pasifika films curated by the Wairoa Festival in New Zealand, so we’ll have a lot of films from that region as well.

I just looked over our program, and we have films from Canada, United States, China, New Zealand, Australia, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Brazil and Timor-Leste. That’s 10 different countries this year! This is definitely the first time we’re screening a film from Timor-Leste, which is a small country in Southeast-Asia.

Q: The Strange Territory Shorts looks to be awesome weird in all kinds of fun ways. That would be a definite on my list of go-tos. Also, because I’ve seen so many great Scandinavian movies, Sami Blood looks really intriguing for me. Why don’t we do a quick skim guide for fest-goers. What’s a film or event…

for someone who wants to be a bit spooked?

The End of the World: Experimental Shorts, Friday August 11 at 10:30pm at the theatre at the Museum of Nature.

I’d suggest our Experimental Shorts program; it has plenty of weird films to get you spooked!


Set on Victoria Island, movie goes can enjoy a view of Parliament along with the film.

for a first date?

Rumble: The Indians who Rocked the World. Opening Night (Wednesday August 10 from 6-11pm) Outdoor Film Screening at Victoria Island (100 Middle Street).

This film is amazing, but I’d suggest it mostly for the venue. It’s screening outdoors, under the stars, on banks of the Ottawa River, in direct view of Parliament, it will have opening performances by Rise & Silla as well as the Ottawa River Singers, plus there’s an intermission for the film with a fireworks display from the other side of the river, it’s sure to entertain and impress that special person!

Still from Sami Blood

Still from Sami Blood provided by Asinabka co-director Howard Adler.

for a good slice of history?

Sami Blood, Sunday August 13 at 10:30pm at the theatre at the Museum of Nature.

This is our closing night film and it’s absolutely stunning. It’s a feature length drama about the a teenage Sámi girl in the 1930s who is sent to a boarding school that is intended to raise its Indigenous charges to a level “acceptable” to the rest of Swedish society. It has strong parallels to the Residential school system in Canada. Although it’s about history, this is not a boring films – it’s edgy, entertaining, heartbreaking, and beautiful.

Still from Maliglutit

Still from Maliglutit provided by Asinabka co-director Howard Adler.

for stunning cinematography or killer shots of seldom seen lands?

Maliglutit {Searchers}, Thursday August 10 at 11:15pm at the theatre at the Museum of Nature.

This is a seriously epic revenge story set on the arctic tundra. It’s a remake of John Ford’s 1956 western film The Searchers. If you want stunning cinematography and seldom seen lands, I think Director Zacharias Kunuk ‘s film shot in Canada’s North acutely meets that criteria!

Still from Spear

Still from Spear provided by Asinabka co-director Howard Adler.

which has aphrodisiac qualities?

Spear, Friday August 11 at 8:30pm at the theatre at the Museum of Nature.

If I had to pick one film that has aphrodisiac qualities, I’d have to say Australian choreographer Stephen Page’s first feature film Spear! Spear is a story told through dance, and it’s breathtaking and visually mesmerizing. Although this film definitely needs a trigger warning and deals with the pain of Australia’s colonial and violent past, it’s artwork and filmmaking of the highest caliber, it’s a masterpiece and that should turn everyone on!

to get active?

Rise, Sunday August 13 at 2:45pm at Gallery 101 (51B Young Street).

I’d recommend Rise – Sacred Water: Standing Rock, Part I. This film is about the people of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation of North and South Dakota and their fight to stop a pipeline from being built on their ancestral homeland. This film is all about water protectors and Indigenous forms of resistance, I don’t know about you but that makes me want to get active!

Q: I’ve had some solid laughs at Asinabka in the past. What do you think is one of the funniest films at this year’s edition?

A: Wow it’s hard to pick just one, I’d have to say almost all the films in our Strange Territory: Late Night Shorts program are pretty damn hilarious! We basically put all the comedy films into this program, and it’s totally one of my favorite film programs at the festival this year. It screens on Friday August 11 at 11:45pm at the Museum of Nature Theatre.

Q: Having seen so many films over the course of your life, you are surely due to debut a film of your own one of these years, right?

A: Actually, I’m an independent filmmaker and I’ve made plenty of films over the years… But so far I’ve never submitted any of my own film work to be considered by the Asinabka Festival selection jury, because of the optics of it, and because people might look at that as a conflict of interest. But this year I participated in an International filmmaking project with the Mispon Festival in Regina, and Wairoa Festival in New Zealand, which involved attending each festival and working with other 2spirit and GLBTQ filmmakers to create new work. Part of this collaborative project includes showcasing the films created at Asinabka Festival, as well as Mispon and Wairoa Festivals. I’m excited that a few of these films will be shown in our “Hard Out: Two-Spirit Shorts” program on Sunday August 13 at 9pm in the Theatre at the Museum of Nature.

Q: Lastly, in terms of attendance, is it a pay-per event situation or are full passes available?

A: It’s $5/Program OR $10/All films for 1 night OR $30 for a Full Festival Pass. No one will be turned away for lack of funds, only if there’s no more space in the theatre!

Q: Thanks, Howard!

A: Chi-Miigwech

The 6th edition of the Asinabka Festival runs from August 9-13 at various locations. The full schedule is available online. Admission ranges from $5 per program to $10 for all films in one night to $30 for a full festival pass. For more for Asinabka, follow the festival on Twitter and Facebook