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Waru, a film directed by eight Māori women that tells the story of Waru, a young boy who dies at the hands of his caregiver, will open this year’s imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival in Toronto, Canada. The closing night gala will be The Road Forward, a musical documentary by Métis/Dene award-winning filmmaker, Marie Clements.

In Waru, directors Chelsea Cohen, Ainsley Gardiner, Briar Grace-Smith, Paula Jones, Casey Kaa, Renae Maihi, Awanui Simich-Pene and Katie Wolfe, each tackle a ten-minute segment of the film to create one complete, remarkable story through the lens of multiple family and community members as they deal with the horrific loss. Waru will be preceded by the short film Holy Angels, directed by Jay Cardinal Villeneuve, a redemptive and ingeniously crafted documentary sharing the testimony of Elder Lena Wandering Spirit’s time at residential school.

Connecting the beginnings of Indigenous nationalism on West Coast – a pivotal moment in Canada’s civil rights history – with the powerful momentum of First Nations activism today, The Road Forward’s stunningly shot musical sequences, performed by an ensemble of some of Canada’s finest vocalists and musicians, seamlessly connects past and present with soaring vocals, blues, rock, and traditional beats. The Road Forward is a rousing tribute to those who fought for First Nations rights, a soul-resounding historical experience, and a visceral call to action.

The 18th Annual imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival will run October 18 to 22, 2017 in Toronto, Canada.

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