Canadian Director Gil Cardinal Dies at 65

Courtesy of National Film Board of Canada
Gil Cardinal

The filmmaker directed TV dramas like 'North of 60,' 'The Rez' and the 'Big Bear' mini-series for the CBC.

Gil Cardinal, the Canadian Metis filmmaker who directed popular TV dramas like North of 60, The Rez and the Big Bear mini-series, has died. He was 65.

Cardinal passed away on Nov. 21, after a long illness, in Edmonton, Alberta, where he was born in 1950, the National Film Board of Canada said Tuesday. “Gil Cardinal was a true pioneer and creative spirit, who left an indelible mark on documentary and Indigenous storytelling in this country," Claude Joli-Coeur, the NFB's chair and Canada's film commissioner, said in a statement.

"It was a privilege to know him and to work with him, and his loss is very keenly felt here at the National Film Board of Canada," he added in tribute. Cardinal started at the NFB, Canada's public film producer and distributor, in 1970, making documentaries about controversial issues like substance abuse and Canada's infamous foster care system.

His 1987 cinéma-vérité doc Foster Child explored Cardinal's own family roots to discover how he too ended up in foster care as a child, and earned the filmmaker a Gemini award for best documentary direction in 1988. He was also among the first indigenous filmmakers to direct big-budget dramas here.

Cardinal's TV work for the CBC, Canada's public broadcaster, included the drama Indian Summer: The Oka Crisis, and Totem: The Return of the G'psgolox Pole, which debuted at the 2003 Toronto Film Festival. He also wrote the pilot for Blackstone, the Canadian drama that streams on Hulu.

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