Podcast: Tantoo Cardinal Talks Community, Culture and Her First Big Screen Leading Role

Tantoo Cardinal

Photo by Marta Iwanek/Toronto Star via Getty Images

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Tantoo Cardinal is ready for her close-up. At 68 years old, and after 48 years as an actress on stage and screen — a run that’s earned her everything from the Order of Canada to the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television’s Earle Grey Award for lifetime achievement — the Indigenous actress has finally landed her first starring role in a feature film.

It seems improbable, after a celebrated career that includes roles in films like Dances With Wolves and Legends of the Fall, that Cardinal had never received top billing, but Falls Around Her, a film about an Anishinaabe musician (Cardinal) who returns to her northern Ontario community in a futile attempt to return to the land and leave fame behind, corrects that oversight.

“It was such a freeing stream for creative energy. And it was just a sheer pleasure,” Cardinal told Ages & Icons of her first starring role. “And I didn’t have to worry about appropriation or the truth of the community, or the truth of culture, or the truth of any of it. It was just an absolute joy just to be able to feel with what we were shooting in that day. I trusted [director] Darleen [Naponse’s] vision and it was a great honour to be able to be there in the community.”

Mike conducted this interview with Cardinal last September via cellphone, as the actress was out and about preparing for the film’s world premiere at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. Nevertheless, Cardinal discussed everything from Falls Around Her to her childhood artistic influences, activism, the importance of Indigenous filmmaking and so much more.

Falls Around Her opens in various Canadian cities throughout April before landing on video on demand on April 23. Click here for more information.


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