Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Sovereign Screens: Aboriginal Media on the Canadian West Coast

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Sovereign Screens: Aboriginal Media on the Canadian West Coast

Article excerpt

Kristin L. Dowell, Sovereign Screens: Aboriginal Media on the Canadian West Coast (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2013), 296 pp. Cased. $50. ISBN 978-0-8032-4538-9.

This anthropological study analyses recent developments in Aboriginal media with a focus upon filmmaking. It is framed by the concept of Aboriginal visual sovereignty, defined by the author as 'the articulation of Aboriginal peoples' distinctive cultural traditions, political status, and collective identities through cinematic means' (p. 2). The main fieldwork for the book was conducted in Vancouver between August 2003 and September 2004, with follow-up visits in 2005 and 2009. Observations from a participant role within an Indigenous media group (IMAG) have been supplemented by archival work in Montreal and Vancouver. An introductory chapter outlines the Coast Salish context of filmmaking in Vancouver, with its diverse urban Aboriginal population and a number of First Nations with urban territories. The life cycle of IMAG, from its beginning as a collective in 1998 to its dissolution in 2007, 'largely because of financial reasons and generational differences between board members' (p. 48), is the subject of the first main chapter. This is followed by an account of the ways in which Canadian government agencies have funded Aboriginal media. The role of the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (officially broadcasting from 1999) is used, in Chapter 3, to illustrate diversity in Aboriginal representation with particular reference to those of mixed identity and who define themselves as two-spirit. The next chapter considers how filmmaking contributes to social relationships amongst family members and in communities. An analysis of the ways in which Aboriginal filmmakers draw upon and respect cultural protocols through the film production practices they adopt and in the content of their films is set against a description of 'Western' films. …

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