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March 3 - March 4, 2006

A Tribute to Tantoo Cardinal

PictureThe Harvard Film Archive is proud to honor actress Tantoo Cardinal with the second Sun Hill Award forExcellence in Native American Filmmaking. Tantoo Cardinal is one of North America’s most widely recognized native actresses. Born in Fort McMurray, Canada, she has appeared in more than fifty films, ranging from independents such as Smoke Signals which won the 1998 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award, to mainstream films like Black Robe and Legends of the Fall. Tantoo Cardinal came of age in Canada during a time when native culture was still viewed with suspicion and even contempt by the Canadian government. In the 1960s, the Canadian Content Rule came into effect. By strengthening the Canadian artistic community, this new law led to an increased number of roles for native actors in Canadian film and television. As a young actress, Tantoo Cardinal began her career with a docu-drama for the CBC and in productions for the Alberta Native Communications Society, she soon moved on to play larger roles in feature films. In an interview this year she stated:
"We had no TV where I grew up in my community in northern Canada, and the only images of native people that I was exposed to, were my family and my relatives, these were wonderful and strong individuals whom I looked up to. It was only when I moved to Edmonton in Alberta in 1965, that I saw a different kind of image that was prevalent in Canadian society at that time, a negative image of native peoples as having no fixed address, and of being somehow lesser than. Acting for me was a way to redress this imbalance, acting allows me to present a different kind of truth, to bring some light back into the stories of our history.”

The Sun Hill Award for Excellence in Native American Filmmaking is an annual award to honor an individual who has made a significant contribution as a director, actor, producer or writer to the legacy of Native American film. This program is jointly sponsored by the Sun Hill Foundation and the Harvard Film Archive. Special thanks to this year’s selection committee members: Lee Bitsoi, Jennifer Malloy Combs, Jackie Old Coyote, Steffen Pierce, and Lucien Taylor.

March 3 (Friday) 7 pm

Where The Rivers Flow North

Directed by Jay Craven
US 1994, color, 105 min.
With Tantoo Cardinal, Rip Torn, Michael J Fox

In this period piece set in Vermont in 1927, Tantoo Cardinal plays the feisty Bangor, who along with lumberman Noel Lord (Torn) is engaged in a battle with the Northern Power Company. Faced with the end of their way of life– when the building of a giant hydro dam threatens to move them off their land– Lord and Bangor try to stave off the inevitable by taking on the power company. Produced and directed by Vermont based independent filmmaker Jay Craven, this beautifully photographed film captures the flavor of a New England that has now vanished. Interview described Cardinal’s performance as one filled with “such astonishing grace that Oscars should rain from the heavens.”

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March 3 (Friday) 9 pm

Postmark Paradise

PictureDirected by Thompson E. Clay
US 1999, color, 92 min.

With Tantoo Cardinal, Vincent Angelini, Randall Godwin
In this low-key drama, Tantoo Cardinal plays Reenie, a no-nonsense barmaid working at the local tavern in Paradise Michigan. When Reenie takes in a neglected Ukrainian mail order bride, the relationship between these two unlikely roommates grows as they help one another navigate the culture of backwoods Michigan. Director Thompson E. Clay clearly enjoys pitting the hard-bitten character of Reenie against Viktoria (Nazarova) and her homespun remedies, which are constantly being put to use to treat the accident prone males of Paradise. Postmark Paradise was a prizewinner at the 2000 East Lansing Film Festival.

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March 4 (Saturday) 7 pm


Directed by Cedar Sherbert
US 2004, color, 15 min.
With Tantoo Cardinal

The heartache of memory is explored as an elderly alcoholic aunt (Cardinal) mysteriously returns to attend the memorial for a family's young son. Memory won the 2004 Best Live Action Short Award at the American Indian Film Festival.

Blood River

PictureDirected by Kent Monkman
Canada 2000, color, 23 min.
With Tantoo Cardinal, Jennifer Podemski, Brandon Oakes

In this contemporary drama, a Canadian teen struggles to find her way as she negotiates the realities of both her adopted family and her native origins. Tantoo Cardinal plays both the role of Rose’s adoptive mother as well as her born again Christian birth mother. At odds with her white adoptive mother, the conflicted daughter fantasizes about what her life might have been with her birth family. Her search for identity reveals a brother and a new understanding of the meaning of family. Blood River won the Best Film Award at the 2000 ImagineNATIVE Film Festival in Toronto.

Honey Moccasin

Directed by Shelley Niro
Canada 1998, color, 47 min.
With Tantoo Cardinal , Florence Belmor, Billy Merasty

Honey Moccasin blends storytelling, collective memory and humor to provide an irreverent slice of life on the Grand Pine Indian Reservation. The comedy/thriller depicts the rivalry between the Smokin' Moccasin bar, a venue for local performance artists and its rival the Inukshuk Café. Against this improbable backdrop we encounter the saga of crusading investigator Honey Moccasin (Cardinal) and closeted drag queen and pow wow clothing thief Zachary John. Director Shelley Niro is a member of the Turtle Clan of the Kanien'kehaka (Mohawk) Nation, from the Six Nations Reserve, near Brantford, Ontario. Honey Moccasin was awarded best feature at the Red Earth Festival in Oklahoma City and best experimental work at the Dream speakers Festival in Edmonton, Alberta.

March 4 (Saturday) 9 pm

Black Robe

PictureDirected by Bruce Beresford
US 1991, 35mm, color, 101 min.
With Tantoo Cardinal, Lothaire Bluteau, Aden Young

In the winter of 1634, a Jesuit missionary and his companion are escorted through the wilderness of Quebec by a band of Algonquin’s in hopes of finding a distant Jesuit mission. This unflinching portrayal of the colonization of French Quebec and the destruction of its native peoples takes a cynical view of both the Catholic religion and the treaties between the French and their native allies. At the time of its release the film caused some consternation with its portrayal of the French, the Algonquin and the Huron as equally violent. Bruce Beresford convincingly portrays the challenges that face the French and their native allies as they negotiate the political realities of the new colony.

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