Review: nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up

by Andrew Parker

A multilayered look at Indigenous issues in Canada, one family’s painful fight for justice, and emboldened racism in the age of social media, nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up (which was the opening night film at this year’s recent Hot Docs festival) looks at the bigger picture behind one of the most controversial murder trials in recent memory.

In the summer of 2016 and through a convoluted series of events, young Cree man Colten Boushie found himself on the southern Saskatchewan farmland of white property owner Gerald Stanley. As the frightened young man (who just woke up from a nap in the back of a friend’s car) was trying to run away from the scene, Stanley shot Boushie point blank in the back of the head. What looked like a case of second degree murder (or at the very least, manslaughter) and something that looked far more dominating than the defense’s claim of self-defense would suggest, turned into an injustice for the Boushie family. After watching their son’s killer getting released without any punishment, the family rallys together and meets with local, national, and international politicians to share Colten’s story and explain to the world why his death plays into a larger discussion about indigenous issues.

nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up, directed by Tasha Hubbard (Birth of a Family), allows the Boushie family a great deal of time and space to share, educate, and hopefully heal old wounds. Their story speaks all too depressingly well to issues historically faced by Canadian Indigenous peoples since Treaty 6 and the Indian Act, but also to a new form of rising, emboldened racism and protectionism. From the courtroom to the halls of parliament to intimate familial moments of remembrance, nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up offers an important counterpoint to mainstream sentiments about reconciliation. Hubbard’s film suggests that while politicians have been talking a good game about the subject, actual reconciliation with First Nations peoples might be as far away as it has ever been.

Hubbard (whose birth father is married to Colten’s aunt) stumbles slightly in an underdeveloped, but well meaning and heartfelt attempt to connect the Boushie case to her own desire to educate her children about their past, but whenever nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up allows its subjects a platform to speak, everyone should listen.

nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up opens at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto, Rainbow Theatre in Regina (with special guests in attendance for the opening night screening), and Vancity Theare in Vancouver on Friday, May 31, 2019. It screens on June 1st and 2nd at Metro Cinemas in Edmonton, with special guests in attendance. It also screens on June 5th at Winnipeg Cinematheque and June 6th at the Sudbury Indie Theatre.

Check out the trailer for nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up:

This review originally appeared as part of our coverage of the 2019 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival.

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