Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2011

Document Type


First Advisor

Helga Luthers, PhD


I evaluate the relationship of Indigenous, or Fourth World, Cinema, to Western Cinema in a society permeated by tropes of popular, western cinema. I examine the stereotypes of indigenous people commonly perpetuated through this mainstream cinema, while considering the relationship between these tropes and the social influences that have perpetuated them. I contextualize these tropes over the past ninety years within such social influences as imperialism, racism, and the developing disciplines of anthropology and evolutionary biology. With a basis in Inuit culture and (colonial) history, I scrutinize the effects of mainstream cinema on the indigenous people it portrays. I also examine the function of Indigenous Cinema, the theories for and against it, and the possible colonial attitudes of its critics. I focus on specific mainstream cinema, and specific Indigenous cinema, looking at dimensions vital to indigenous culture, which also correspond with colonial appropriation: conceptions of geography and land, history and time, and language. As Indigenous cinema negotiates its relationship between mainstream cinema, it must navigate through its colonial past, neither forgetting, nor forced to always speak in opposition to this past. Its emphasis on self-representation seeks to replace the tropes of mainstream cinema, and even as indigenous cinema negotiates with the effect of mainstream cinema, it is negotiating Indigenous identity. The Indigenous films by Isuma-Igloolik show that this emergence, acknowledgement of colonial crimes, and continual creation of new Indigenous cinema, beyond the bounds of Western cinema, can be possible.