The National Film Board of Canada has pulled a documentary from the slate of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, after questions surfaced about the filmmaker’s claim to indigenous roots.
The documentary “Inconvenient Indian” “will be withdrawn from all upcoming festivals, including the 2021 Sundance Film Festival,” the National Film Board of Canada said in a statement issued Tuesday.
The film was scheduled to have its premiere online on Jan. 31, 2021. Sundance is going to be presented mostly online this year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Inconvenient Indian” is based on the 2012 book by author and activist Thomas King. The film, according to the festival’s program, examined King’s “dismantling of North America’s colonial narrative, which reframes history with the powerful voices of those continuing the tradition of Indigenous resistance.”
As the trade website Deadline reported, director Michelle Latimer drew criticism over claims that she had family roots in Canada’s Quebec Algonquin community. Members of the Kitigan Zibi community, which is part of Algonquin First Nation, questioned those claims.
Latimer, in a post on her Facebook account last week, apologized for the claim.
“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,” Latimer wrote. “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 and the Metis Nation.”
In a brief statement Wednesday, Sundance officials said, “We understand and respect the decision by the film team to withdraw the work from our Festival.”
“Inconvenient Indian” was one of 10 films selected for the festival’s World Cinema Documentary competition. Sundance officials did not say whether an alternate title will fill the slot left by its cancellation.
According to the NFB’s statement, the decision to pull the film was made by the board, along with 90th Parallel Productions and one of the film’s producers, Jesse Wente. NFB, which is an agency of the Canadian government, also conferred with “the Indigenous participants who appear on screen, the NFB’s Indigenous Advisory Group, and industry partners.”
Canceling after receiving a coveted spot on Sundance’s slate is rare, but it has happened before. In 2017, director Lucy Walker’s musical documentary “Buena Vista Social Club: Adios” was taken off the schedule just hours before its Sundance premiere, by the producers over rights issues. In December 2017, producers pulled the documentary “Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!” from Sundance’s 2018 lineup after director Morgan Spurlock admitted to sexual misconduct and harassment.