new merch designs by Jason Baerg for this years Asinabka Film & Media Arts Fest
One of four gorgeous new merch designs by Jason Baerg for this year's festival. Image: Jason Baerg/Asinabka Film & Media Arts Festival.
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From new music to Q+A’s with Indigenous filmmakers, there’s a lot left to enjoy from this local festival.

In its ninth year of programming, the Asinabka Film & Media Arts Festival returned to Ottawa from Sept. 16-20, this time on audiences’ screens. 

In its entirety, the festival aims to “highlight works that examine Indigenous issues and topics, support media artists and filmmakers, promote Indigenous cultures and languages, to educate people about First Nations, Métis, and Inuit issues in Canada, and about Indigenous issues internationally.’ 

Asinabka also “provides a space where Indigenous peoples can tell their own stories and see their own cultures reflected back at them,” a space “to entertain, to be innovative, and to present the best in Indigenous film.” 

That’s an impressive mandate! Essentially, the Asinabka Film & Media Arts Festival is a space for the celebration of Indigenous culture from a range of different voices. Normally this celebration is in-person (last year it took place in and around Ottawa’s Arts Court), but this year it moved online due to COVID-19.

This year’s program featured films from Indigenous filmmakers from across Canada in multiple languages, as well as numerous interactive Q+A’s and musical performances. 

If you missed the opportunity to check out this year’s festival, some programming is still available for your viewing pleasure. The Handsome Savages, a punk rock band, have a full set available on the festival’s Facebook page, as does singer Brad Henry. Vancouver-based queer artist Nimkish also dropped her debut album during the festival; her performance is available here

Polaris-longlist artist Anachnid also performed an exclusive set for Asinabka Film & Media Arts Festival, which is firstly, glorious (her voice is velvety beyond belief) and secondly, available for viewing here.

The festival has also archived this year’s film Q+A’s on their Facebook page, which are a fascinating look into the realities of filmmaking during COVID-19 and beyond.

Leaning into the mask-wearing new normal, Asinabka Film & Media Arts Festival changed their merch this year, releasing a stunning range of face masks printed with designs from Indigenous artist Jason Baerg. 

The online festival, while of course of a different feel and style from its usual in-person edition, allowed for festival organizers to program out-of-town artists more easily, including “live” performances from musicians across Canada. Additionally, the Zoom Q+A model allowed for synchronous discourse between artists and audiences no matter where they were for the screening in Canada – an adjustment, to be sure, but one that made the festival accessible to more people, which is an essential part of the festival’s mandate.