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#HotDocs21 Review: One of Ours

May 8, 2021

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The 2021 Hot Docs Festival is running virtually from April 29th to May 9th, all films are available to stream for audiences across Canada

Josiah Wilson was born in Haiti and adopted as a baby by a Heiltsuk father and a white mother, and raised as part of an Indigenous community in Calgary. But, despite being a member of the Heiltsuk Nation and having legal Indian status, Wilson was barred from competing at the All Native Basketball Tournament in 2016, due to an old, colonial “blood quantum” rule requiring players to have at least 1/8th Indigenous blood.

Director Yasmine Mathurin, delivering a well crafted feature debut, examines the fallout from this decision in her fascinating documentary One of Ours. Wilson’s disqualification from the tournament became a national news story that sparked a wider debate about how Indigenous identity is defined in Canada, but Mathurin’s film looks more specifically at how the decision impacted Wilson on a personal level, shifting his own sense of belonging and exacerbating existing tensions within his family.

Gaining intimate access to Wilson’s personal life, and capturing some candid moments with his family and friends, One of Ours becomes a powerful look at a young man struggling to balance his Black and Indigenous identities. As more details are revealed about Wilson’s unique family, including the events surrounding the divorce of his parents, the portrait becomes even more complex. The film also reveals the disconnect that he is feeling towards his two younger siblings, who pass as white.

Mathurin does a good job of tying this all together with home video footage of Wilson as a child, including some touching images that show the bond he shared with his Indigenous grandfather, affirming his deep roots to the First Nations community that he was adopted into. What emerges is a fascinating and thought-provoking look at issues of racial identity and self-acceptance, with a lot of different layers to unpack.

One of Ours is available to watch from April 29th until May 9th. It includes a Q&A. Digital tickets and more information can be found right here.

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