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network 01/09/2015 - 02:00PM


Cinema Politica’s latest acquisition, Victoria Lean’s AFTER THE LAST RIVER (2015), is a scathing indictment of Canada’s federal and provincial governments’ inability and unwillingness to honour their treaties with Canada’s First Nations.

AFTER THE LAST RIVER follows seven years of life in Attawapiskat, an indigenous reserve in northern Ontario that attracted national media attention in 2011 when Chief Theresa Spence declared a State of Emergency due to the community’s deplorable living conditions. Lean interviews Attawapiskat’s residents about the lack of basic services, such as a local fire department, clean and safe schools, and government-provided houses with adequate insulation against the winter cold, as well as the community’s struggles with systemic poverty. Although local politicians make frequent pleas to provincial and federal governments to send more aid to reserve communities like Attawapiskat, legal help only starts to trickle in after the Red Cross intervene during the 2011 State of Emergency.

Lean further pillories the government’s neglect of First Nations living conditions by framing much of the film around Attawapiskat’s relationship with a nearby and highly lucrative de Beers’ diamond mine, whose creation was partially subsidized by the Ontario government. Practically none the wealth generated by the mine arrives in Attawapiskat, despite de Beers’ insistence to the government and their shareholders that they are accountable to the local communities. Adding injury to insult, the mine’s waste also appears in the community’s water sources, rendering local tap water practically unusable for any domestic use.

AFTER THE LAST RIVER concludes with activist groups, such as Idle No More, joining with Attawapiskat to demand that the government not only respect its treaties with First Nations communities but to revise the lingering, antiquated, colonial politics that comprise the quality of life on First Nations reserves nationwide. Attawapiskat’s many social, environmental, and political challenges prompts one of the local protagonists to remark that, “If [the rest of Canada] knew what was happening in the reserves… if the knew the truth of how we were living here, then maybe they’d wake up and find out, but nobody knows”.

Cinema Politica is honoured to do our part in sharing AFTER THE LAST RIVER with as many of our local chapters as we can, in solidarity with that protagonist’s insistence that meaningful change starts with an informed population.


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