For more than forty years, internationally acclaimed filmmaker and activist Alanis Obomsawin has given voice to Canada's Aboriginal Peoples. A member of the Abenaki Nation, Obomsawin makes documentaries that are vital chronicles of the dismantling of indigenous culture and battles with dominant society. Hi-Ho Mistahey!, her latest film, explores a shocking and saddening disparity: First Nations communities receive significantly lower levels of school funding and education than the rest of the country.
The Attawapiskat First Nation closed their elementary school in 2000 due to toxic land contamination. Since then, students have been learning in chilly rundown portables infested with rodents. This has led to high teacher turnover (one year twelve teachers left) and a list of other problems. Frustrated by unfulfilled promises of a new school by the government, the late Shannen Koostachin began one of the largest-ever youth-driven movements, now called "Shannen's Dream," which pressed for safe, comfortable schools and culturally based, equitable education for aboriginal students. Hi-Ho Mistahey! chronicles this campaign, culminating in a delegation of six First Nations youth ambassadors presenting in Geneva to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
A master of capturing irony and injustice, Obomsawin reveals startling facts. For example, under Canada's federal Department of Indian Affairs, school funding is not protected and can easily be redirected to pay for community roadwork or litigation. Historically, Canada's treatment of its indigenous population has been shameful to say the least, and though there has been progress in recent years, Hi-Ho Mistahey! is a testament to the amount of change still needed. Obomsawin's latest film is one of her best, a searing criticism of government oversight told compassionately and with an unyielding message: all children deserve the chance to succeed.
"The poignant persuasiveness of Hi-Ho Mistahey! is one of its strengths, for the fight behind Shannen’s Dream seems like such a no-brainer when the argument is delivered so clearly and passionately." - Patrick Mullen, cinemablographer.com
Director: Alanis Obomsawin
Runtime: 100 minutes
Language: English, Cree (English subtitles)
Distributor: National Film Board of Canada
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BC NR /
AB NR /
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MB NR /
QC NR /