Indigenous Peoples

The Wound
The Wound

As sprawling cities continue to grow and the landscape around us becomes more metropolitan, stories of the world's indigenous peoples have never been more important to preserve and showcase to audiences. Known in some places as First Peoples or Native Peoples, the indigenous population of a country are the earliest known inhabitants of that area, communities who have strong ties to the environment and personal tradition. Often large portions of their land have been stolen from them by colonial forces in the past, forcing them to adapt to a new way of living whilst maintaining their strongly held personal beliefs.

On August 9, the United Nations celebrates International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples in an effort to celebrate a different way of living and to spotlight some of the troubles and concerns faced by indigenous culture across our planet in the face of growing urbanisation and modernisation.

Film has long been a valuable and insightful way of making sure that the complex and varied stories of indigenous people are told, often by filmmakers and artists of indigenous origins themselves. We have selected a number of titles, both primary and secondary, that we believe can act as a valuable starting point to those wishing to learn more about these hidden and undervalued communities around the world.

Kirikou et la sorcière (Kirikou And The Sorceress)

CertU

Age group5–11

Duration70 mins

Kirikou et la sorcière (Kirikou And The Sorceress)(1998)

Animation based on a traditional African tale about a headstrong baby whose cleverness is a match for the wicked sorceress that threatens his village.

Drawn in a distinct style that reflects the originality of the story and accompanied by traditional African folk songs, this accessible and hugely enjoyable film is a colourful look into tribal traditions and different methods of storytelling in African society. Prepare to fall in love with Kirikou!

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Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimarron

CertU

Age group5–14

Duration80 mins

Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimarron(2002)

Animation about a wild horse which journeys across America, escaping attempts to tame him and teaming up with a Native American en route.

By blending hand drawn animation and CGI, this animation has a wonderfully original visual finesse. Spirit is a fiery wild horse whose growing friendship with a Native American tribes-person opens many avenues of exploration into both indigenous lifestyles and landscapes.

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Dora and the Lost City of Gold

CertPG

Age group7–14

Duration102 mins

Dora and the Lost City of Gold(2019)

An adventurous Hispanic teenager sets off on a jungle adventure with her new high school classmates in order to rescue her explorer parents.

Based on the famous children’s animated show, this live-action and updated take on the character of Dora is both a celebration of Hispanic heritage but also contains strong messages about the importance of preserving and respecting the indigenous Amazonian treasures and traditions found in the film.

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The Eagle Huntress

CertU

Age group7–14

Duration87 mins

The Eagle Huntress(2016)

Inspiring documentary about a 13 year-old girl seeking to defy tradition and become an eagle hunter in her isolated Mongolian community.

As women around the world continue to push for equality between the sexes, this film documents one teenage girl’s resilience and defiance in the face of her community’s traditions whilst containing some unbelievably gorgeous scenes of Mongolia’s diverse mountainous regions.

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Moana

CertPG

Age group7–14

Duration103 mins

Moana(2016)

A courageous teenage girl follows in the footsteps of her ancestors in sailing across the Oceanic seas, accompanied by a demi-god called Maui.

Hugely successful on release, this Disney film is a breath of fresh air, exploring the little-addressed traditions of the Oceanic people without sacrificing any of the warmth, accessibility and wit that make Disney films so hugely popular. Consider the coconut.

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Whale Rider

CertPG

Age group7–16

Duration101 mins

Whale Rider(2002)

Tradition causes trouble in a family when a young Maori girl wants to take up what she believes is her rightful place at the head of her tribe.

Set in modern New Zealand and filmed with loving care, Whale Rider is very much a film about the clash between the old and the new, focusing on how social progression can be even more difficult in indigenous communities.

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The Cave Of The Yellow Dog

CertU

Age group7–11

Duration89 mins

The Cave Of The Yellow Dog(2005)

A touching story played out against beautiful Mongolian scenery, as a young girl befriends a stray dog, setting off a troubling series of events.

An underseen but incredibly worthwhile film, this Mongolian-set blend of documentary and fiction is a sincerely authentic account of a family’s life in one of the most remote parts of the world. It also contains one of the cutest dogs in all of cinema.

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The Wound

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration88 mins

The Wound(2017)

South African drama about a gay man returning to his father’s village to embark on an ancient cultural practice designed to turn teenagers into men.

This controversial and intense look at the way in which tribal tradition can clash with sexuality is a very authentic, wonderfully acted film that resonates with audiences for a long time after viewing.

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Children of the Snow Land

CertPG

Age group11–16

Duration93 mins

Children of the Snow Land(2018)

Children from the rural Himalayas, who have been sent to school in the city, begin a perilous journey home after 12 years away from their families.

Walking to school may seem difficult sometimes but this gorgeous documentary showcases the dangerous journey that indigenous children in the Himalayas must go through in order to get an education. Handing the camera over to these young adventurers gives the film a singular point of view to see from.

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I Am Not A Witch

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration93 mins

I Am Not A Witch(2017)

A young girl in an African village is accused of witchcraft and exiled to a witch camp in the middle of the desert.

Directed by Zambian-Welsh filmmaker Rungano Nyoni, this film explores themes of community, patriarchy, cultural exploitation and superstition with intelligence and an unusual comic tone. As the women in the “witch camp” provide protection for the innocent but stoic heroine, the village’s male elders seek to exploit her as western tourists line up to gawp and take selfies.

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Black Panther

Cert12A

Age group11+

Duration134 mins

Black Panther(2018)

T’Challa returns to his home of Wakanda to inherit the throne but soon finds himself having to defend it from a soldier with a mysterious past.

Quite possibly the most famous film about indigenous peoples ever made, this multi-million-dollar superhero film may be full of incredible action set-pieces but also explores what it means to be separated from traditional modernisation and having a responsibility to your heritage.

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Boy

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration87 mins

Boy (2010)

Set in a small coastal town in New Zealand, this sweet film focuses on the relationship between Boy and his estranged father.

The first film of now renowned director Taika Waititi is a typically funny but nevertheless touching story of familial estrangement and Maori culture seen from the vantage point of a young boy still learning about the world around him.

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Nanook of the North

CertU

Age group7+

Duration79 mins

Nanook of the North(1922)

Pioneering documentary from 1922 which reveals the life of an Inuit man called Nanook.

The early days of cinema were instrumental in showing audiences around the world areas of geographical remoteness that they would never be able to reach. Although the authenticity of Flaherty’s film has been disputed, it is nevertheless a fascinating look at an experience so new to most audiences.

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Powaqqatsi

CertU

Age group11+

Duration99 mins

Powaqqatsi(1988)

A shocking, beautiful film made up of a series of images of the world around us, focusing on the industrialisation of the developing world.

For something a little more experimental but no less cinematic and beautiful, this second in a trilogy of documentary/art hybrid films focuses on the multitude of ways in which industrialisation and modernisation has damaged the environment and culture for a number of indigenous populations.

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