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Woodland Spirits ONF/NFB

Catalogue Number:  NFB544631
Producer:  National Film Board Of Canada
Producers:  Dave Clement, Anita Lee, Lea Marin, Silva Basmajian
Directors:  Dave Clement
Producing Agencies:  National Film Board of Canada (Montreal), Thunderstone Pictures Inc. (Thunder Bay)
Subject:  Architecture, Arts, Documentary, First Nations Studies, Indigenous Peoples
Language:  English
Country Of Origin:  Canada
Copyright Year:  2007
Running Time:  27:22

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Two men paddle a canoe in a remote region north of Lake Superior, each stroke bringing them closer to the culmination of an artistic and spiritual journey - one that begins with ancient rock paintings created by their Anishinawbe ancestors.

Artist Moses "Amik" Beaver raises a paddle, pointing out the red ochre images of traditional symbols and animal spirits nestled among the lichens. For his travelling companion, 19-year-old painter Andrew Machendagoos, it is a powerful moment. "I felt at home. Like one of my relatives or elders from a couple of generations back wanted me to see that," he says.

Featuring stunning scenery and powerful artwork, Woodland Spirits highlights the mentoring connections linking three men - Gelineau Fisher, Moses Beaver and Andrew Machendagoos - representing three generations of Woodland artists living in northwestern Ontario. All three have been profoundly affected by the life and work of the late Roy Thomas - a close friend, artistic influence and father figure whose wisdom on the connections between art, people and the natural world is a key presence in the film.

Gelineau, Moses and Andrew work in the tradition of the Woodland School - featuring bold black lines, vibrant colours and interior visions of animal spirits - popularized by artists such as Norval Morrisseau and Roy Thomas. In part, this film is a tribute to Thomas's ongoing legacy. It lives on through younger artists, and through the work of his widow, Louise Thomas, who supports Anishinawbe artists through the gallery she runs out of her husband's old studio.

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