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“Inconvenient Indian” director Michelle Latimer facing questions about Indigenous identity

"I have listened to my community and feel that stepping away from the production is the appropriate course of action," said Latimer in a social media post, which comes four days after reports surfaced calling into question her claim of Indigenous identity.
December 21, 2020

Michelle Latimer, director of the feature doc Inconvenient Indian and showrunner, writer and director for the Viceland series Rise, is facing controversy following questions raised about her claims of Indigenous identity.

On Thursday (Dec. 17), CBC News published a story reporting that during the summer questions had been raised over Latimer’s Indigenous identity, after her claims to be of Algonquin, Métis and French heritage, from Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, were scrutinized by Kitigan Zibi members.

Latimer issued her own statement on Thursday, saying: “I now realize that I made a mistake in naming Kitigan Zibi as my family’s community before doing the work to formally verify this linkage. I understand that there is an important difference between having this ancestry verified by the community of Kitigan Zibi and having it named and validated by members of my own family. I apologize and hold myself accountable for the impact this has had on the community of Kitigan Zibi.”

The filmmaker added that she has hired a genealogist in order to understand her family history with greater clarity, in addition to reaching out to “Elders and community historians in Kitigan Zibi, and the surrounding areas, to receive guidance and obtain verification.”

As the controversy moved into this week, Latimer announced her departure as showrunner, writer and director for the popular CBC series Trickster, moving into its second season next year.

“It’s with a heavy heart that I am resigning from season 2 of Trickster,” said Latimer in a statement posted to Facebook on Monday. “I have listened to my community and feel that stepping away from the production is the appropriate course of action. I stand by who I am and by my family’s history, but I also understand what is being asked of me. I recognize my responsibility to be accountable to the community and my fellow artists, and that is why I have made this decision.”

Latimer added: “I fully support the continuation of this story and wish the production nothing but the best moving forward.”

Latimer’s resignation comes three days after co-creator Tony Elliott and consultant Danis Goulet also announced that they had resigned from the show.

The Streel Films and Sienna Films-produced drama – based on Eden Robinson’s Trickster book trilogy, consisting of Son of a Trickster, Trickster Drift and Return of the Trickster – has been a critical and commercial success since its debut on CBC in October, racking up numerous international sales and garnering acclaim as a contemporary Indigenous with gothic and supernatural elements.

Inconvenient Indian, which won two awards at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, is slated to screen at Sundance in January as part of the World Cinema Documentary Competition. Realscreen has reached out to a festival spokesperson to see if that screening will be impacted by the current situation.

(From Playback Daily, with files from Barry Walsh)

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