Web series analyzes how Canadian crime films portray Indigenous people

“Indigenous peoples were almost invisible in those films,” professor says

Eagle Vision, an Indigenous owned production company, is known for its work in film and television – Their work on the film Capote helped win an Oscar.

For the past two years, they have been producing an online web series hosted by University of Winnipeg professors and other scholars analyzing Canadian film and crime depicted in them.

Frozen Justice is an online educational video series that examines film and television to help understand where ideas about crime and justice originate.

Steven Kohm, a criminology professor at the University of Winnipeg, started the series along with colleagues outside criminology, including Prof. Pauline Greenhill from the University of Winnipeg, University of Manitoba Prof. Sonia Bookman and Ontario Tech University Prof. Andrea Braithwaite.

In the second season, which just aired earlier this week, Kohm looked at Indigenous people and the way they are depicted in certain crime films.

“What we found is that there’s a whole, there’s literally hundreds of films where they depict the Mounties and the great Canadian frontier, and it was no surprise that Indigenous peoples were almost invisible in those films and if they did appear they were almost just background characters.”

Kohm believes these films, while understudied, allow audiences to form opinions on right and wrong.

“It’s the place where common sense is created. So people watch a film about crime and justice and they form their ideas about what is good and bad and right and wrong,” stated Kohm.

“So there’s a reason why crime films are so popular, it’s because they communicate something really important to audiences about right and wrong, morality and immorality and those are powerful ideas.”

Greenhill hopes the educational series can spark a discussion about crime in Canada and crime involving Indigenous people.

“I think for example a lot of the videos that we have created in Frozen Justice both one and two can be used in educational settings so not just university classes but also public school and particularly high school but public school in general.”

Having more Indigenous filmmakers is helping public perspectives to change according to Rebecca Gibson, the head of development at Eagle Vision.

“It’s interesting to see the perspective of the changes that have happened with films that involve Indigenous characters and Indigenous storylines and how, as more Indigenous people get involved in the storytelling, filmmaking and in the acting, the stories are becoming better.”

The Frozen Justice web series will now continue after this season but both the professors and Eagle Vision hope to collaborate on more projects in the future.

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