Discover Alberta—from its big cities and rural areas to its small towns and remote communities—through a selection of films that shines a spotlight on the province’s hidden treasures and fascinating characters. Suitable for both primary and secondary level students, this playlist includes animated and documentary films. These seminal works from our collection address the topics that matter most, ranging from historical subjects to the most pressing issues of the day.
Warning: this film contains disturbing content and is recommended for audiences 16 years of age and older. Parental discretion, and/or watching this film within a group setting, is strongly advised. If you need counselling support, please contact Health Canada.
In this feature film, the profound impact of the Canadian government’s residential school system is conveyed through the eyes of two children who were forced to face hardships beyond their years. As young children, Lyna and Glen were taken from their homes and placed in church-run boarding schools, where they suffered years of physical, sexual and emotional abuse, the effects of which persist in their adult lives. We Were Children gives voice to a national tragedy and demonstrates the incredible resilience of the human spirit.
In this feature documentary-musical by Chelsea McMullan, indie singer Rae Spoon takes us on a playful, meditative and at times melancholic journey. Set against majestic images of the infinite expanses of the Canadian Prairies, the film features Spoon crooning about their queer and musical coming of age. Interviews, performances and music sequences reveal Spoon’s inspiring process of building a life of their own, as a trans person and as a musician.
Official selection at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.
This documentary travels the migration corridor forged between Sherbrooke, Quebec, and the town of Brooks, Alberta, by French-speaking Africans. Most have come from the Democratic Republic of Congo, some by way of refugee camps in Uganda and Tanzania. Unable to find employment in Quebec, they travelled out West. An interweaving of personal stories and the filmmaker’s own trips back and forth through the corridor offer an honest look at how much work is yet to be done to successfully integrate these newcomers.
In this joyful portrait, filmmaker Ann Marie Fleming animates the formative days and musical career of Calgary-born identical twins Tegan and Sara Quin. Their remarkable journey over the past 20 years has often intersected with notions of identity—as artists, as individuals, as sisters, as queer women, and as leading activists in the LGBTQ community. Their musical progression parallels and amplifies their commitment to bringing the marginal to the mainstream.
This short film traces Pete Standing Alone's personal journey from cultural alienation to pride and belonging. As a spiritual elder, teacher, and community leader of the Kainai Nation of Southern Alberta, Pete works with youth to repair the cultural and spiritual destruction wrought by residential schools. At age 81, he has come full-circle in his dedication to preserving the traditional ways of his people.
A single IQ test and misguided 'science' irreparably changed the life of a 14-year-old Canadian girl. This documentary follows Leilani Muir's search for justice and explores how eugenics (improving hereditary qualities of a race through the control of reproduction) became acceptable in the early 1900s.
In 1963, Lena Wandering Spirit became one of the more than 150,000 Indigenous children who were removed from their families and sent to residential school. Jay Cardinal Villeneuve’s short documentary Holy Angels powerfully recaptures Canada’s colonialist history through impressionistic images and the fragmented language of a child. Villeneuve met Lena through his work as a videographer with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Filmed with a fierce determination to not only uncover history but move past it, Holy Angels speaks of the resilience of a people who have found ways of healing—and of coming home again.
In this feature length film Gary Burns, Canada's king of surreal comedy, joins journalist Jim Brown on an outing to the suburbs. Venturing into territory both familiar and foreign, they turn the documentary genre inside out, crafting a vivid account of life in The Late Suburban Age.
This documentary paints a picture of Arab men that is vastly different from what we’re accustomed to. In this antidote to mainstream-media depictions of Arabs as terrorists and extremists, we get to meet Jay, Ghassan and their friends, who gather at Jamal’s Eden Barber Shop to discuss politics, religion and family over a cut and a shave. Often funny, sometimes sad, this engaging film documents the challenges these men face integrating into Canadian life while preserving their identity and culture.
François Paulette has devoted more than 25 years of his life to resolving a battle that is more than a century old. Senior negotiator for the Smith's Landing First Nation, Paulette is determined to see the Canadian government honour promises made to the Thebatthi (Chipewyan) people in an 1899 treaty. Shot in northern Alberta and Ottawa, Honour of the Crown is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the turbulent final years of this fight.
Plunged into seemingly endless negotiations, Paulette and his brother, Chief Jerry Paulette, struggle to reclaim nine tracts of land and $33 million in compensation. Featuring interviews with tribal, provincial and federal government representatives, this documentary provides a rare glimpse into one community's success in settling a 100-year-old treaty obligation of the Crown.
This film introduces Jim Rogers: trapper, Fort McMurray native and unsuccessful candidate in the last municipal elections, which saw his home become a modern gold rush town. Much more than the linear version of the Fort McMoney web experience, this doc is its actual result and mirror, offering a reflection on democracy in ruins.
This documentary follows six young Canadians, including refugees from the Middle East and Africa, who come to Fort McMurray, the capital of the third-largest oil reserve in the world. “Fort Mac,” as it’s known, becomes a testing ground for these young dreamers as they struggle with their own perceptions of money, glory and self-worth amid plummeting oil prices, an unpredictable economy and, most recently, awe-inspiring wildfires.
Three sisters and a brother, adopted as infants into separate families across North America, meet together for the first time in this deeply moving documentary by director Tasha Hubbard. Removed from their young Dene mother’s care as part of Canada’s infamous Sixties Scoop, Betty Ann, Esther, Rosalie and Ben were four of the 20,000 Indigenous children taken from their families between 1955 and 1985, to be either adopted into white families or to live in foster care. Now all in middle age, each has grown up in different circumstances, with different family cultures, different values and no shared memories. Birth of a Family follows them through the challenges, trepidations and joys of their first steps towards forming their family. Meeting all together for the first time, they spend a week in Banff, Alberta, sharing what they know about their mother and stories about their lives and the struggles they went through as foster kids and adoptees. As the four siblings piece together their shared history, their connection deepens, bringing laughter with it, and their family begins to take shape.
This short documentary follows several refugee families during their first 19 days in Canada, as they navigate an unfamiliar terrain that has suddenly become their home. Located in the quiet Calgary neighbourhood of Bridgeland, the Margaret Chisholm Resettlement Centre is the starting point for government-assisted refugees who arrive in the city. During the 19-day timeline established by the federal government, an initial assessment is done and refugees are assisted with everything from airport reception and orientation to referrals, documents, and counselling.
19 Days reveals the human side of the refugee resettlement process. A unique look at the global migration crisis and one particular stage of asylum, it lays plain the realities faced on the difficult road towards integration.
The Peace-Athabasca River Delta is a stunning habitat. Rivers converge in a rich, marshy wetland before draining into the Slave River. But the Delta is in trouble. Since the building of the WAC Bennett Dam in 1967, annual floodwaters--once the ecosystem's lifeblood--have become a thing of the past. The Delta is drying up, and lakes and wetlands are being replaced by brush. Species like the muskrat are disappearing. Footprints in the Delta explores the changes that have buffeted the region for several decades. Scientists, activists and Indigenous Peoples describe how lives have been fundamentally altered by the changes. And satellite images show the dramatic pace of degradation. Footprints in the Delta is essential viewing for anyone who cares about wetlands. It is a revealing account of the rapid change and environmental havoc humans can bring to a delicate ecosystem.