‘nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up’ is an emotional award-winning film

Colten Boushie documentary tells the story of his death and raises questions about Canadian justice

A young Cree man by the name of Colten Boushie entered a rural farmer’s property in August 2016. The farmer, Gerald Stanley, saw young Native teens in a car and ran to get his gun. Stanley approached the vehicle and shot Boushie in the back of the head, killing him. Stanley was later acquitted of any crime by a Canadian jury. There were no Indigenous jurors.

The events surrounding Boushie’s life and tragic death received international attention, and First Nations director Tasha Hubbard followed the story for almost three years (August 2016-March 2019). The result was a profoundly engaging documentary titled nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up.

The synopsis:

On a summer day in 2016, a young Indigenous man named Colten Boushie died from a gunshot to the head after entering Gerald Stanley’s rural property with his friends. The emotionally charged trial and acquittal of Stanley caused shock and outrage across Canada, capturing international attention and raising questions about prejudice within the judicial system, and anti-Indigenous racism in the nation.

Award-winning filmmaker Tasha Hubbard follows the journey of Colten’s family as they search for justice, taking their fight to the highest echelons of power and, ultimately, to the United Nations. Hubbard deftly illustrates how the long history of violence against Indigenous people continues to define life in parts of Canada, and the impact of systems that have been the instruments of colonial domination for centuries. At once urgent and intimate, nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up, is a profound portrait of a family standing up for a more just and fair society for future generations.

Documentary review

The documentary begins as Tasha Hubbard a writer, filmmaker and associate professor at the University of Alberta from Peepeekisis First Nation in Treaty Four Territory is leading her son and nephew to talk about the encroachment of settlers on Indigenous land.

Photo - George Hupka
<strong><em>nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up - Photo by George Hupka</em></strong>

Hubbard, the writer and director of the film does an exceptional job of drawing in the viewer to her own connections, to her own indigenous culture, and to the love for her family. 

Hubbard's love and investment in this film is the veritable glue that binds it all together.

In all the horrible tragedies that the family faced in the death of Colten Boushie, who they call “the baby of the family,” they were fortunate to have Hubbard along the way, to film events and eventually relay a terrible story in a caring, respectful and altogether masterful way.

Hubbard delves into several narratives that affect the Indigenous and First Nations people today. She addresses the history of treaties and forced starvations of the Chiefs, tribes and families of Native people in history, the reasons injustices exist in the legal systems of today, and the ways in which systemic racism is the by-product of historical government to Indian relations.

I openly wept many times during the watching of this film. I could feel every word, every image, every video clip that was carefully delivered to me by Hubbard and her film team. I felt strong emotion not only for the story being told, but for the sense of loss I felt in my own Native blood. I felt the loss of ancestral families, the loss of language, the loss of my own relatives that I have never had the honor to meet.

But Hubbard comforted me as well as she comforted her son and nephew when she looked at historical records in some museum’s archives.

“We’re here because the people that came before us loved us so much,” Hubbard says to her son and nephew. The moment was a gift to all Indigenous people, in my view.

Hubbard son and nephew
“We’re here because the people that came before us loved us so much,” Hubbard says to her son and nephew. (Screen capture)

The story follows the several year trial of Gerald Stanley. The story follows the family of Colten Boushie, who must fight with every bit of energy against the legal system of Canada.

Listening to the words of her Kokum, Jade Tootoosis steps up as the family spokesperson to deliver strength to a sorely needed process. Her candor is a beam of light in this film, and impossible to ignore.

The viewer is continuously hit with an all-too-painful truth, life for Indigenous people simply isn’t fair. As Sheldon Wuttunee states in the film, it was difficult to refer to Canada’s court system as a “justice system,” instead, he would refer to it as a “legal system.”

After the final verdict by the jury for Gerald Stanley, the family continues to travel and meet with Canadian politicians, lawmakers and more, while also prompting worldwide protests and rally’s asserting “Justice for Colten Boushie.”

Family of Colten Boushie at a Canadian Press Conference

The film, though delivering a fair bit of emotional turmoil, delivers a strong and unflinching message, "change must happen." 

The film is exceptional.

Colten Boushie was a young Native man, who decided to trade his life so that there could be an effort to create more understanding, more exposure for the unjust world of the legal system and unfair perception of Indigenous people.

Colten takes a selfie with his mother Debbie
<em>Colten takes a selfie with his mother Debbie</em>

Awards and accolades given to nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up

Hubbard’s documentary nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up has been garnering great responses from audiences in Canada. According to the film’s publicity department in an email, “The premiere of Tasha’s film at Hot Docs 2019 got huge media echoes, not least because it was the first time an Indigenous-helmed documentary opened this prestigious festival.”

The documentary has since received coverage from such outlets as NOW, which listed it as one of “10 Must-See Hot Docs 2019 Films” the Toronto Star which similarly listed it as one of “10 movies you must see at Hot Docs 2019, and BlogTO which also touted the doc as “10 Movies getting the biggest advance buzz at Hot Docs 2019.”

The documentary’s formal awards are:

Best Canadian FeatureHot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, Toronto, Canada (2019)

Colin Low Award for Canadian DocumentaryDOXA Documentary Film Festival, Vancouver, Canada (2019)

Official SelectionFIN Atlantic International Film Festival, Halifax, Nova Scotia (2019)

Official SelectionCalgary International Film Festival, Calgary, Alberta (2019)

Where to watch

Additionally, the film will make it’s U.S. premiere at the Margaret Mead Film Festival (October 17-20) at the American Museum of Natural History.

For more information about the film visit the film’s National Film Board of Canada's official page at https://www.nfb.ca/film/nipawistamasowin-we-will-stand-up/.

The film’s official Facebook page continuously lists and updates where the film will be screened next in its “events” section. Communities can also request the film on the page: https://www.facebook.com/WeWillStandUpfilm/

Rotten Tomatoes critic reviews 

ICT Phone Logo

Follow Vincent Schilling, associate editor for Indian Country Today
Twitter at @VinceSchilling
Instagram at @VinceSchilling
Email - vschilling@indiancountrytoday.com

Vincent Schilling is a certified critic on Rotten Tomatoes 

Comments (1)
No. 1-1
Winterwindteacher
Winterwindteacher

I am only vaguely familiar with reading about this tragedy previously. It is a.great.sorrow and with aching.heart his mother must bare the senseless loss of her sons life. It is a.cruel undeserved.burden for a loving mother and far too much and unjust for a.young handsome native son and man to pay who.had his whole life ahead of him and.dreams to live, and love and memories to keep. My condolences to his mom, unbearable grief. Condolences to his entire family, relatives, friends, and all those who shared, love, laughter, times together, talking, smiling. What a difference a person makes in the world. what a void that remains that can not be filled by another. May the medicine always be there to help heal the people and give them strength. I believe the creator gave these lands to the people so long.ago because he trusted the people would love and care for her and the people have not disappointed him, she was a great beauty. I pray he will restore her loveliness and the people who have always lived here with her in love and respect. I.pray he will restore.to the people all.those they loved and were separated from.May the people know joy again, may it never leave them.