Indigenous filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin wins $100,000 Glenn Gould Prize


Documentary filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin has won the $100,000 Glenn Gould Prize recognizing her lifetime contribution to the arts.

The 88-year-old member of the Abenaki Nation, who is also a musician, was selected by a jury of her peers in recognition of her dedication to chronicling the lives and concerns of First Nations people.

Obomsawin has directed more than 50 films over her half-century career at the National Film Board, including landmark documentaries Incident at Restigouche, and Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance.

Starting her career as a singer-songwriter in the 1960s, Obomsawin released her only album Bush Lady several decades later.

Her inspiration came from a number of recording sessions she participated in under a CBC Radio sponsorship in 1984, but unhappy with the outcome, she re-recorded and released the seven-track album under her own private label in 1988.

Obomsawin standing in front of a poster for one of her documentaries Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Obomsawin’s works extend into the visual arts where her engravings and prints explore similar elements to her films, such as how historical events influence dreams and memory.

Organizers of the Glenn Gould Prize say they shared news of the win with Obomsawin as she was planning her latest film about a dream she had as a young woman.

Established in 1987, the Glenn Gould Prize is awarded in honour of the acclaimed Canadian piano virtuoso, who died in 1982 at age 50 after suffering a stroke.

The prize, which is handed out every other year, has been awarded to American opera singer Jessye Norman, American composer Philip Glass, Canadian theatre icon Robert Lepage and Leonard Cohen in recent years.

Grammy-winning musician and visual artist Laurie Anderson was the chairperson of this year’s international jury.

The other jury members span an array of creative disciplines, including pianist Surojeet Chatterji, writer-photographer Teju Cole, music producer A.R. Rahman, author Neil Gaiman, Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Parry and Canadian actress Tatiana Maslany.

Obomsawin will also choose a young artist or ensemble to receive the $15,000 City of Toronto Glenn Gould Protege Prize later this year.



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