A bold new virtual reality piece from the National Film Board of Canada will be introduced at the Tribeca Film Festival (April 20-28) when Biidaaban: First Light premieres as part of the “Storyscapes” program. This work of immersive Indigenous futurism was created by award-winning Anishinaabe artist Lisa Jackson, 3D artist Mathew Borrett, digital design agency Jam3 and the NFB — “Biidaaban” is an Anishinaabemowin word meaning “the first light before dawn,” which also evokes the idea of the past and future meeting in the present.
The interactive, room-scale piece asks users to reflect on their place in history and role in a possible future as they move through a highly realistic future Toronto, reclaimed by nature. Here, they hear the languages of the place originally known as Tkaronto, and through gaze-based interactions, engage with the written text of the Wendat (Huron), Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) and Anishinaabe (Ojibway) and gain insight into the complex thought systems of this land’s first peoples.
Per the NFB: Biidaaban: First Light illuminates how Indigenous languages can provide a framework for understanding our place in a reconciled version of Canada’s largest urban environment. The importance of language in understanding Indigenous perspectives is one of its main themes. Indigenous North American languages are radically different from European languages and embody sets of relationships to the land, to each other, and to time itself. But as Indigenous languages face the risk of disappearing, we risk losing what they have to teach us.
Biidaaban: First Light is the latest NFB work to reflect its commitment to improving gender parity in Canadian film and digital media and transforming its relationship with Indigenous creators and communities. It is produced by Dana Dansereau and Rob McLaughlin from the NFB. The executive producer is Rob McLaughlin, who is also the head of the Digital Studio in Vancouver.