Marie Clements's The Road Forward brings the Native Voice into the modern era

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      A documentary by Marie Clements. Rating unavailable

      The Road Forward offers an embarrassment of riches regarding the political, cultural, and day-to-day life of Canada’s First Nations people, particularly in this region.

      This deluxe-looking NFB documentary was written and directed by Marie Clements, who had been inspired to create a stage musical and then her first feature after searching through copies of the Native Voice, a B.C. newspaper that connected far-flung communities starting in 1946, long before the advent of the Internet or even television in most places. This investigation connected her with the Native Brotherhood, a long-running advocacy group that, despite the name, empowered many women (including nonaboriginal founding editor Maisie Hurley) in this matrilineal mix of West Coast cultures.

      The surviving men and women of the group, and of the newspaper, provide powerful testimonials for Clements’s camera, blended (by editor Jenn Strom) with equally compelling visits with contemporary artists, writers, and musicians. These include Vancouver stalwarts Shakti Hayes and Russell Wallace, playwright Corey Payette, and hip-hop artist Ronnie Dean Harris, among many others, all contributing to catchy songs by Manitoba composer Wayne Lavallee.

      The well-produced tunes are presented as illustrative music videos, informal performances, background to older footage, and concert settings that fittingly blend anger, self-assertion, and pure celebration. These are seen alongside dramatic re-creations, archival stills and news footage, old clippings, material addressing the missing-women crisis, slow-motion mood setters, and the aforementioned interviews, as well as reenactments of the filmmaker riffling through Native Voice.

      Ultimately, 10 movies’ worth of material is stuffed into just under two hours, making for a journey that’s a little harder to absorb than it could have been. Still, whatever your own background, you’re likely to come away from this Road saying—as an elderly participant recalls of dominant-culture folks responding to her own group’s historical presentations—“How come I didn’t know these things?” If the film is too much of a good thing, it just shows what we’ve been missing.