American and Cherokee writer Thomas King sits in Toronto’s own Fox Theatre. Joining him are other Indigenous people, including producer Jesse Wente. Behind them is a machine projecting white light, presumably a film on a screen, an artistic medium that settlers have invented and used against Indigenous people of America.
That’s one of the basic thesis statements in Michelle Latimer’s Inconvenient Indian, a documentary adaptation of King’s book. This adaptation shows how Indigenous people use different art forms to fight back, or to at least show how they see themselves. And that self representation subverts dates stereotypes about Indigenous people.
Latimer shows Indigenous people at work. Sometimes the surfaces they work on are conventional ones, and at other times those canvases are unconventional. One of the documentary’s subjects is a filmmaker, Alethea Arniquq-Baril, who is trying to revive the Inuit tradition of face tattoos, doing it 21st Century style.
Modernity or post-modernity is one of Inconvenient Indian‘s subjects, which bring contradictory but nonetheless positive reactions. Sometimes it doesn’t answer all of its questions succinctly, and at other times there’s always room to bring a third or a fourth subjects that relates to how a People’s ambivalence toward modernity.
Nonetheless, it invalidates white settler or Hollywood arguments that history’s pain doesn’t define people because it does. As a matter of fact, ignoring that history can affect Indigenous and white settler relations outside of art. Latimer and King choose to end the documentary with an outcry, appealing to settler humanity.