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Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance

Directed by Alanis Obomsawin
Canada, 1993 (documentary, 119 minutes, colour, English)
Also known as "Kanehsatake, 270 ans de résistance"
Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance
Image: © National Film Board of Canada
Video (National Film Board of Canada) [French]
Video (National Film Board of Canada)

Film Description:
"On a hot July day in 1990, an historic confrontation propelled Native issues in Kanehsatake and the village of Oka, Québec, into the international spotlight and into the Canadian conscience. Director Alanis Obomsawin endured 78 nerve-wracking days and nights filming the armed stand-off between the Mohawks, the Québec police and the Canadian army. A powerful feature-documentary emerges that takes you right into the action of an age-old Aboriginal struggle. The result is a portrait of the people behind the barricades, providing insight into the Mohawks' unyielding determination to protect their land."
-- National Film Board of Canada (source)

Film Credits (partial):
Written by: Alanis Obomsawin
Produced by: Wolf Koenig, Alanis Obomsawin, Colin Neale
Narrator: Alanis Obomsawin
Film Editing: Yurij Luhovy
Music: Claude Vendette, Francis Grandmont
Production Company: National Film Board of Canada

Award won by Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance

Quote by the Director [in French]

"Ce conflit a été tellement incompris. Ce que je voulais, c'est qu'on comprenne pourquoi c'est arrivé, qu'on comprenne le sentiment de ces gens-là qui ont eu le courage de faire cette résistance. Cela ne date pas du 11 juillet 1990, cela vient de plusieurs générations. Il faut connaître l'histoire."
-- Alanis Obomsawin (source)

Quotes about Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance

"Québec's ambiguous historical situation as both colonizer and colonized evidently informs popular opinion and the response of the local cultural press to what was described as [Alanis] Obomsawin's biased point of view [in Kanehsatake - 270 ans de résistance], especially when she was perceived as representing Québec on the 'wrong' side of the colonial power struggle."
-- Bruno Cornellier (source)

"[Alanis] Obomsawin's film [Kanehsatake 270 Years of Resistance], as part of its undoing of the cultural construction of Mohawk warriors as terrorists, asks the white Western viewer to identify with the gaze of the Mohawk Other that reads colonialism as white state-sponsored terrorism."
-- Christopher E. Gittings (source)

"In the early days of the [Oka] Crisis, [Alanis] Obomsawin abandoned the project she was working on in order to take a film crew to Kanesatake. Obomsawin remained behind the barricades for the duration of the Crisis, providing the only First Nations-generated footage of this event. The insight she brings, as a Native person, to the Crisis is key to its chronicling and to mediating the experiences of the Mohawk people in the community. Her work fulfills an important archival and communicative function. From the footage she collected over those many weeks, [in addition to Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance] Obomsawin also made My Name is Kahentiiosta (1995), about a Mohawk woman's arrest and defiance after the Crisis; Spudwrench: Kahnawake Man (1997), the story of a Mohawk ironworker involved in the defense of Kanesatake during the Crisis; and Rocks at Whiskey Trench (2000), in which she explores corollary events at another nearby Mohawk community, the reservation of Kahnawake. In all of these films, she deftly weaves Mohawk culture, the politics of community, the history of Native/non-native relations and the experience of trauma with a unique lens on setting, the land itself."
-- Elizabeth Claire Kalbfleisch (source)

"Throughout the film [Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance], [Alanis] Obomsawin features women speaking to the camera in interviews with the filmmaker, or records them in confrontation with an opponent, be it a police officer, a soldier, or an antagonistic member of the surrounding community. The message the Mohawk women articulate resounds with clarity: We're here. This is our land. We 're not going anywhere."
-- Elizabeth Claire Kalbfleisch (source)

"When the film [Kanehsatake 270 Years of Resistance] was released in 1993, the CBC continued its long-standing neglect of [Alanis] Obomsawin's work, in this case arguing that she needed to slice thirty minutes from the two-hour film to make room for commercial breaks. [..] Colin Neale, the executive producer who worked with Obomsawin on the film, rebuffed the network's demand. [...] Eventually, public interest in Kahnesatake overpowered the CBC's bureaucratic reluctance, and the network aired it on January 31, 1994."
-- Randolph Lewis (source)

"It is clear that without [Alanis] Obomsawin's 1993 film [Kanehsatake 270 Years of Resistance], the history of Oka circa 1990 would be dominated by [Prime Minister Brian] Mulroney's assertion, reproduced in the documentary, that the armed Mohawks were criminals and illegally wielding weapons."
-- Brian McIlroy (source)

"[Kanahsatake: 270 Years of Resistance] provides an uncompromising and partisan perspective of what happened around the Oka golf course to open up a space from which Mohawk historical narratives can be re-articulated and Native struggles for self-determination can be legitimized."
-- Zuzana Pick (source)

Quotes about Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance [in French]

"Si la crédibilité menace tant ce film, qui a cru que la transformation de l'actualité en fantasme de vérité est de l'information, c'est que la réalisatrice n'a pas su faire image. Faire du cinéma. Mais seulement de la télévision pauvre et tiers-mondiste, c'est-à-dire propagandiste-pédagogique selon la phraséologie militante."
-- André Roy (source)

"En 2008, au colloque Paroles et pratiques artistiques autochtones au Québec aujourd'hui tenu à l'UQAM, Alanis Obomsawin racontait qu'à partir des quelque deux cents heures de matériel tourné en 16 mm et en vidéo, un premier montage de douze heures fut réalisé, puis ce montage fut réduit aux quelque deux heures du documentaire Kanehsatake: 270 ans de résistance. Faisant état d'un besoin de transmettre l'expérience et le récit de cet événement politique aussi significatif que traumatisant, elle précisait qu'à la fin, «c'était comme arracher des dents parce que tout était tellement important ». Elle ajoutait qu'elle n'a pas pu se sentir libre avant d'avoir réalisé trois autres films sur le conflit car elle tenait absolument à ce que « l'histoire de ce qui se passait là », qui n'avait pas été relayée dans les grands médias, soit finalement comprise : « C'est pour ça que j'ai fini par faire trois autres films, parce que je ne me sentais pas libre ... jusqu'à ce que j'aie fait Rocks at Whiskey Trench. C'était toujours là ... on n'avait pas entendu parler des gens qui étaient dans les autos, et moi, je n'étais pas capable de vivre avec ça. Après que j'eus fait ce dernier film-là, je me suis sentie libre concernant ce sujet-là, mais c'était très long [...] »."
-- Isabelle St-Amand (source)

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Bibliography for Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance

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