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Reel Injuns (as Hollywood sees them) and northern native radio were paired for the closing films at ALFF. Dennis Allen's CBQM is an endearing and spontaneously funny portrait of the volunteers who have kept their Gwich'in community radio station going for 30 years. Residents of Fort MacPherson, NWT, one of the northernmost settlements, started their own local broadcasts when the CBC went too commercial for them, using feeds from Toronto and Vancouver that left local content out in the cold. Volunteers may be less slick than their CBC counterparts, but they deliver the real news, often dubbed “the mocassin telegraph, and some fine live music as well.
Cree director Neil Diamond's Reel Injun, examines the long history of how aboriginals are portrayed on the silver screen. Sure, this is largely an embarrassment, but Diamond and his subjects keep it upbeat. “White people playing Indians? I think its funny!” quips Chris Eyre, director of Smoke Signals. Diamond was rewarded with extensive applause for his film. One of the viewers asked him if the stereotype of the wise, nature-loving native was reimagined in James Cameron's new blockbuster. Avatar's Na'vi might be natives in blue with tails. Neil says “Yeah, I call it Dances with Pocahontas in Space.”
Of course we all hoped to see Northern Lights, but during our first ride into town with ALFF operations director Dean Eyre, we're told that the conditions haven't been right for the lights for the past couple of years there have been none to see – at least near Whitehorse. “I've only seen them on DVD” he says. But the next morning, after a cloudless day and night, I hear that fest director Andrew Connors has called Dean and others in the night to urge them to go outside and see the Lights. I can't confirm that anyone else saw them, and I was not among the fortunate. At least I saw the movie.