TIFF 2020: Inconvenient Indian (Michelle Latimer, Canada)

By Adam Nayman

Toronto’s Fox Theatre plays itself in Inconvenient Indian, which opens by sending Thomas King—author of the 2012 critical study that give the film its title and rhetorical spine—to the cinema. Sitting in the dark before clips from Nanook of the North, a man watches a movie, and the critic must acknowledge that he is that (Indigenous) man. King’s wistful, witty  observations about the relationship between cinematic representation and Canada’s warped sense of history about land, ownership, and cultural indoctrination ground Michelle Latimer’s film in a semiological urgency that only sharpens as it splinters into multiple directions—including cowboys-and-Indians re-enactments, hip hop-flavoured raves, subversive gallery installations, Evil Dead-inspired student filmmakers, community activism, and video games—all located along the same loopy, sinuous wavelength of defiant, reclamatory creativity. As a translation of King’s piercingly playful literary sensibility (a body of work riddled with sly fables and wry tricksters), Inconvenient Indian is fluid and faithful; as a showcase for Latimer’s own developing chops as a formalist, a journalist, and a polemicist, it’s dazzling.

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