Lesson Plans – Using Documentary Film

These educational guides were originally commissioned by the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival. They include a range of questions that will help teachers frame discussions with their class, as well as activities for before, during, and after viewing. Web links that provide starting points for further research or discussion are also included. Linked to the Ontario curriculum.

  • Tunniit: Retracing the Lines of Inuit Tattoos

    Directed by Alethea Arnaquq-Baril
    2010 | Canada | 50 min

    Tunniit details young Inuk director Alethea Arnaquq-Baril’s journey to discover more about the Inuit tradition of facial tattooing.

  • The Creator’s Game: The Quest for Gold and the Fight for Nationhood

    Directed by Candace Maracle
    2011 | Canada | 42 min

    The Creator’s Game is a look at the Iroquois Nationals, who travelled to the 2011 World Indoor Lacrosse Championship on Haudenosaunee Confederacy passports.

  • The Life You Want

    Directed by Michelle Derosier
    2011 | Canada | 34 min

    In the Northern Ontario community of Fort Hope, the addiction rate is estimated to be at 80 per cent, with most people addicted to OxyContin.

  • Music is the Medicine

    Directed by Lindsay Rusheleau
    2010 | Canada | 45 min

    Music Is the Medicine follows virtuoso blues-rock guitarist and singer-songwriter Derek Miller, a Mohawk, as he struggles to make it big in the music industry.

  • Reel Injun

    Directed by Neil Diamond
    2009 | Canada | 86 min

    Reel Injun takes a critical yet humorous look at the depiction of Indigenous peoples in Hollywood films. Filled with clips from hundreds of classic films and interviews with actors and directors, the film considers how contemporary Indigenous filmmakers are changing the way Indigenous peoples are portrayed on-screen.

  • Land of Oil & Water

    Directed by Warren Cariou and Neil McArthur
    Canada | 2009 | 44 min

    This film uses the voices of First Nations elders, youth, and politicians to illustrate the issues around Canada’s tar sands. Some say that money doesn’t make up for the environmental degradation and destruction of pre-colonial Indigenous ways of life. Others say that industry interference is inevitable, and that Indigenous peoples should benefit.

  • Qapirangajuq: Inuit Knowledge
    & Climate Change

    Directed by Zacharias Kunuk
    Canada | 2009 | 60 min

    This is the world’s first Inuktitut-language film on the topic of climate change, told in the voices of Inuit elders and hunters who detail the social and ecological effects of global warming in the Arctic. Using stunning visual shots on the land, the film documents Inuit knowledge that has been ignored by southern scientists.

  • Pushing the Line:
    Art Without Reservations

    Directed by Lisa Jackson
    Canada | 2009 | 48 min

    Pushing the Line features the art and words of West Coast artists, including manga artist Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, carver Dempsey Bob, graffiti artist Andrew Dexel, and visual artist Marianne Nicolson. By detailing how their politics affect their art, the artists show that Indigenous art is much more than totem poles and masks sold in tourist shops.

  • The Experimental Eskimos

    Directed by Barry Greenwald
    Canada | 2009 | 70 min

    In the 1960s, the government of Canada relocated three 12-year-old Inuit boys to Ottawa, where they lived with foster families and attended school. Their relocation was part of a formal experiment to, as the government said, “destroy native culture.” The men struggled with the loss of their Inuit identity, and were accused of selling out.

  • Unreserved: The Work of Louie Gong

    Directed by Tracy Rector
    Canada | 2010 | 14 min

    This film profiles artist, activist, and teacher Louie Gong. Gong – who is Nooksack, Squamish, Chinese, Scottish, and French – designs shoes, T-shirts, and skateboard decks using Coast Salish artistic forms, creating a unique combination of art and attitude that tests the boundary between traditional and contemporary.

  • Mémére Métisse/
    My Métis Grandmother

    Directed by Janelle Wookey
    Canada | 2008 | 30 min

    Franco-Métis filmmaker Janelle Wookey wants to know why her grandmother, 73-year-old Cecile St. Amant, is embarrassed about and denies her Métis roots. The film documents Wookey’s mission: she wants her grandmother to admit she is Métis and register with the Manitoba Métis Federation. In the end, she succeeds on both counts, helping her grandmother honour a past she has hidden for over 60 years.

  • Athlii Gwaii:
    The Line at Lyell

    Directed by Jeff Bear and Marianne Jones
    Canada | 2010 | 47 min

    Soon after a logging blockade was started by young people at Athlii Gwaii (Lyell Island, part of Haida Gwaii), Haida elders asked them to step aside – because they wanted to be the first ones arrested. The film looks at the role elders play in Indigenous societies and the reverence the Haida have for the land. Pairing archival clips with contemporary interviews, the film also details the personal and political effects of the blockade.

  • Mohawk Girls

    Directed by Tracey Deer
    Canada | 2005 | 63 min

    Mohawk Girls chronicles the lives of three girls from the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory. All three are struggling with the challenges of growing up on a reserve close to Montreal yet isolated from the outside world. The film details contemporary issues facing Indigenous youth: identity, family, school, drug and alcohol use, racism both on- and off-reserve, the role of cultural traditions, sexuality and teenage pregnancy, and making choices for the future.

  • Spirit Doctors

    Directed by Marie Burke
    Canada | 2010 | 40 min

    Okanagan elders Mary and Ed Louie have been working as traditional healers in B.C.’s Similkameen Valley for more than 50 years. Spirit Doctors shows the gratitude they have for the plants and other items they use to help their patients, how they must live cleanly in order to be able to heal others, and the things they give up in order to work for their communities. The film also delves into the science behind Indigenous medicine.

  • Thirst

    Directed by Gail Maurice
    Canada | 2007 | 14 minutes

    More than 100 First Nations communities across Canada do not have clean, safe drinking water. Thirst is a glimpse into Keewaywin, an Oji-Cree community north of Red Lake, Ontario, where the water is contaminated with uranium and residents are forced to purchase expensive bottled water.

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