Colten Boushie documentary makes history as Hot Docs opener

Hot Docs kicks off its latest edition in Toronto on Thursday by shining a light on inequity and systemic racism in the Canadian legal system and efforts of Colten Boushie’s family to push for change.

Tasha Hubbard’s nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up is opening North America’s largest documentary film festival, the first time an Indigenous director has landed the high-profile slot.

Making its world premiere, nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up paints a stark portrait of the landscape surrounding the 2016 death of Boushie, a young Saskatchewan man from Red Pheasant First Nation, and the acquittal of Gerald Stanley, the white farmer who fatally shot him. The case sparked a massive outcry and captured international attention.

In the doc, which Hubbard also narrates, the filmmaker weaves her own personal history into a larger examination of colonialism and racism in the Prairie provinces along with how Boushie’s family continues to pursue landmark changes in our justice system. nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up is slated for theatrical release later this year.

Filmmaker Tasha Hubbard is the first Indigenous director to land the opening night spot at Hot Docs. (Hot Docs)

Members of Boushie’s family, their legal advisers and other supporters will join Hubbard in Toronto Thursday night to help unveil the film.

“We hope that nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up shines a light on the significant barriers the Canadian legal system presents to Indigenous peoples and families seeking justice for their loved ones. What Indigenous peoples experience within this system is unacceptable,” the family said Thursday morning in a statement.

Boushie’s mother Debbie Baptiste, seen seated at bottom right, and his cousin Jade Tootoosis, seated second from right, addressed the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York in 2018. (Hot Docs International Documentary Film Festival)

“We will continue to press provincial, federal and international leaders to make real and lasting change,” the family added, while also sharing thanks to First Nation, Métis and Inuit peoples across Canada, Indigenous people worldwide and non-Indigenous allies for their support.

Over the next 10 days, Hot Docs will showcase more than 230 films from 56 countries, plus virtual reality and interactive experiences. According to organizers, 54 per cent of this year’s films are directed by women.

Prey, about a Canadian sexual abuse survivor’s legal battle against the Catholic Church, the devastating Your Last Walk in the Mosque, which gives voice to survivors of the Quebec City mosque shooting, cosmetics industry exposé Toxic Beauty and climate change doc The Hottest August are just a few examples of the wide-ranging, topical films screening at this year’s edition.

This year’s Hot Docs also includes films exploring fascinating personalities such as singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot, sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer, pioneering NHLer Willie O’Ree, activist journalist and author Stieg Larsson and Gaëtan Dugas, the Canadian man demonized as “patient zero” in the early years of the AIDS epidemic.

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