Hot Docs 2016 Review: The Grandfather Drum
The Grandfather Drum is an animated short that tells the true story of a First Nations elder from Northern Ontario.
After his grandson dies, Naamowin builds a healing drum based on a vision that came to him in a dream. He uses the drum to great effect to keep his community healthy and their relationship with the earth, sky world, and underworld, delicately balanced. This community’s connection to nature and their home goes beyond physical connection and transcends into a deep spirituality.
The drum healed people for many years until Christianity was introduced to the community and colonialism became the new reality. The drum represents the heartbeat of the community. Once that heartbeat, along with the spiritual balance of the community, was forever interrupted, darkness overcomes the people.
The film tackles profound and topical themes in its short runtime, including religion, colonialism, community, government, and humanity. The animation and score help tell a story that explicitly implicates in its crosshairs and is refreshingly blunt in its assessment of colonialism’s lasting effects. The drum featured in this film is in a museum waiting to return home and unfortunately, history has dictated that the drum’s healing powers remain as sorely needed today as they were generations prior.