'Reel Injun' to open Canadian indigenous fest

imagineNATIVE Film Festival in Toronto opens Oct. 14

TORONTO -- Cannes-award winning filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk on Wednesday night will make a cameo appearance in Neil Diamond's "Reel Injun," a indie documentary about native American stereotypes to open the imagineNATIVE Film Festival in Toronto.

But Kerry Swanson, executive director of the imagineNATIVE festival, credits Kunuk's 2001 Camera d'Or winning feature "Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner" with spawning a global movement in indigenous film to unfold in Toronto over the next five days.

" 'The Fast Runner' really put indigenous filmmakers right up there with the best in international film production," Swanson recalls.

That movement includes Diamond's "Reel Injun," a look at Hollywood's "cowboy and Indians" caricatures in its classic westerns that includes clips and comments with Robbie Robertson, Clint Eastwood and Jim Jarmusch,

The imagineNATIVE lineup includes Sarah Roque's "Six Miles Deep," a documentary about women activists who protested during a 2006 Canadian land claim dispute, the Australian indigenous comedy feature "Stone Bros." from Richard Frankland and Filipino director Kanakan Balintagos' gay-themed feature "Boy."

Just as Kunuk's "Atanarjuat" was the first feature film to be written, produced and directed by Canada's Inuit people, Swanson said imagineNATIVE aims to showcase global films by and about indigenous peoples.

"By staying true to that, it (imagineNATIVE) has a universal appeal," Swanson said.

The imagineNATIVE will close Oct. 18 with the Canadian premiere of U.S. director Sterlin Harjo's "Barking Water," a drama about ex-lovers seeking redemption which comes to Toronto by way of Sundance and Venice.