Loretta Todd: Coast filmmaker getting increased exposure

Gibsons-based Loretta Todd is among a group of Indigenous filmmakers being introduced to a new and wider audience, thanks to a joint project between the National Film Board (NFB) and B.C.’s Knowledge Network. 

Todd’s 1994 documentary Hands of History is among 20 films from NFB’s Indigenous Cinema Collection that is now available free on Knowledge Network’s streaming services. Hands of History profiles four female artists – Rena Point Bolton, Joane Cardinal-Schubert, Doreen Jensen and Jane Ash Poitras – who have sought “to find a continuum from traditional to contemporary forms of expression,” as the NFB said in a release. 

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“Two of the artists in the film (Jensen and Cardinal-Schubert) have passed away, so it’s nice they’ll be remembered,” Todd told Coast Reporter in an interview. “The other two [Bolton and Poitras] are still very active, so it’s an opportunity for people to see their work. It’s nice to know they will continue to inspire people.” 

The NFB-Knowledge project will add another 40 films from the Indigenous collection for free streaming over the next three years. Todd said she was not yet aware if any of her other movies will be among them. There are a lot to choose from in Todd’s sizable and award-winning body of work, which includes more than 20 documentary and feature films, plus TV productions. 

Among her recent projects is Coyote’s Crazy Smart Science Show. “We filmed much of it on the Sunshine Coast at Rolling Earth Farm in Roberts Creek and in and around Gibsons,” Todd said. The show is described by the Aboriginal People’s Television Network as “an adventures-in-science series that encourages youth to explore the fascinating world of science – from an Indigenous perspective.” Indigenous channels in Australia and the U.S. have also picked up the series, which Todd said is currently in post-production on its second season, which will start airing this fall. 

“APTN has asked for season three, but we’re still waiting to see if we get the full financing for that from the other funding sources,” she added. “And with season three, I would hope to come back and do more filming on the Coast.” 

Since moving to Gibsons four years ago, Edmonton-born Todd has done a lot of ferry commuting to production facilities in Vancouver, and also has spent time in Kitimat directing yet another project – her new feature film, Monkey Beach. Starring Adam Beach and Grace Dove, it’s an Indigenous superhero story, weaving Haisla traditional tales into contemporary mystery about a rebellious young woman trying to save her brother, lost at sea. 

The motif of celebrating the creativity of Indigenous women is one that surfaces frequently in Todd’s work. “I feel strongly about the themes of social justice and empowerment,” she said.

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