Established in 1998, the imagineNATIVE festival’s mission from the outset was simple: to showcase, promote, and celebrate emerging and established Canadian and international indigenous filmmakers and media artists.
To say that it has succeeded in its goals is an understatement: 2014 saw the 15th anniversary of the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival – to give its full title – and it is now the world’s largest festival of its kind, with an expansive annual program of feature films, documentaries, exhibitions and new media created by First Nations people from Canada and around the globe. As it continues to evolve, the ongoing aim is to bring indigenous artists and their work to as wide an audience as possible, and to foster a deeper understanding and connection with national and international aboriginals.
Running annually each October amongst Toronto’s autumn festival slate, imagineNATIVE is a five day event – typically Wednesday to Sunday – which offers a packed program of terrifically diverse activities, from art exhibits to readings and audio features designed for radio broadcast, and impactful feature-length dramas to animated youth shorts. 2014 saw the festival kick off with its opening night gala screening of the acclaimed New Zealand-produced vampire mockumentary ‘What We Do in the Shadows’, followed by the opening night party at the city’s The Everleigh, with the days that followed crammed with script readings, screenings, book launches, networking events and the prestigious awards night held on the Saturday.As well as its main festival in October, imagineNATIVE runs community programs throughout the year, essentially taking portions of the festival on the road. The imagineNATIVE Film + Video Tour gives regional and remote towns the opportunity to experience indigenous films and creations, and provides youth-oriented video workshops, while the indigiFLIX Community Screening Series showcases a specially curated list of films in indigenous communities, allowing people who cannot make it to the main festival the chance to see the work on show.
There are opportunities to get involved, with artist Q&As, meetings and other immersive activities throughout the main festival, or via sponsorship, donations or volunteering to assist; imagineNATIVE is a non-profit organization and registered charity, so relies on support.
imagineNATIVE continues to grow with every year, and is now considered the most important indigenous media and arts festival in the world. It runs from the 22nd to 26th October at various venues across Toronto, with the majority of screenings held at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.