Potlatch + Our Voices, Our Stories

I. Opening Night: Alert Bay
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Potlach: A Strict Law Bids Us Dance
Canada 1975. Dir: Dennis Wheeler. 54 min. Digibeta

Directed by the late Vancouver filmmaker Dennis Wheeler, a distinct and promising artistic voice of the early 1970s, and created in collaboration with the Kwakwaka'wakw First Nations of Alert Bay, B.C., this acclaimed documentary focuses on the Northwest Coast practice of the potlach, a traditional ceremony in which surplus wealth is given way. The film documents two great potlaches. One, given by Chief Dan Cranmer in 1921, a period when the ceremony had been banned by the Canadian government, resulted in the prosecution of 45 people. The other, in 1974, was given by Dan Cranmer’s family, including his daughter Gloria Cranmer Webster, who narrates. The film was restored in 2007 by the Audio Visual Heritage Association of B.C., with support from the U'mista Cultural Society of Alert Bay.

— Intermission (10 min.) —





Our Voices, Our Stories
Canada 2015. Dir: Barb Cranmer. 39 min. DVD

In 2015, St. Michael’s Indian Residential School in Alert Bay, B.C., was demolished. An estimated 9200 Indigenous children attended the school, operated by the Anglican Church of Canada, between 1929 and 1975. Some died, many were abused, and many never returned to their families. Made by the celebrated filmmaker and artist Barb Cranmer of the ’Namgis First Nation of Alert Bay, this powerful documentary chronicles the demolition of the building, an important symbolic step towards healing, and gives voice to the school’s survivors. Best Documentary Short, American Indian Film Festival, San Francisco.

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Guest in attendance: Barb Cranmer