'Inconvenient Indian' Doc Withdrawn From Sundance After Director Apologizes for Indigenous Ancestry Claims

Michelle Latimer
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The National Film Board of Canada has pulled Michelle Latimer's film from all festivals after its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival.

Michelle Latimer's documentary Inconvenient Indian has been withdrawn from the Sundance Film Festival after the Canadian director came under scrutiny for claiming Indigenous family roots in a Quebec Algonquin community while promoting her film ahead of its Toronto Film Festival world premiere last summer.

"After engaging with the Indigenous participants who appear onscreen, the NFB’s Indigenous advisory group, and industry partners, the NFB, 90th Parallel Productions and producer Jesse Wente have decided to withdraw Inconvenient Indian from active distribution," the National Film Board of Canada said in a statement Tuesday. Canada's public film producer said the film would be pulled from film festivals, including Sundance.

Last Friday, Latimer in a statement apologized after mistakenly naming Kitigan Zibi as her family’s ancestral community in Quebec before confirming that link with local elders. Inconvenient Indian, an adaptation of Thomas King's book Inconvenient Indian, in which the American-born Canadian writer meditates on what it means to be "Indian" in North America, was set to have a U.S. premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January.

"We understand and respect the decision by the film team to withdraw the work from our festival," the Sundance Festival said in a statement to THR after the film's producers pulled the documentary from consideration.

"Over the coming weeks and months, we will continue to dialogue and engage with Indigenous communities to explore an accountable path forward for the film," the NFB added in its statement. The documentary and the controversy surrounding it put the NFB, which is committed to having Indigenous stories told by Indigenous creators, and producer Jesse Wente, who is also director of Canada's Indigenous Screen Office, in a creative bind as they work with Canada's Indigenous filmmakers on their own projects.

The controversy may also put in doubt production on a second season of Trickster, which is now in development at the CBC, but has seen the departures of key creative consultants and producers.