True Story documentary put an Indigenous lens on the history of Canada

Wednesday, October 5th, 2022 1:07pm


Image Caption

Dinae Robinson


“You want to ensure that you're doing everything correctly; that you are telling these stories as accurately and responsibly and respectfully as you can… That is always my goal at the end of the day.” — Dinae Robinson
By Adam Laskaris
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Growing up in Winnipeg, Dinae Robinson wanted to be an actress.

“Ever since I was little, I knew I was meant to be a storyteller in some capacity,” Robinson said. “I knew I wanted to work in film, ever since I can remember.”

Robinson, an Anishinaabekwe (Ojibwe) from Swan Lake First Nation, Man., began her film career by picking up background roles in whatever film productions came through Winnipeg.

But for her latest project, a two-hour documentary titled True Story, which premiered Sept. 30 on National Truth and Reconciliation Day, she’s labelled as the executive producer, creator, director and showrunner.

True Story considers how to move forward from Canada's colonial past as it looks back at the history of Canada from an Indigenous perspective.

With four different roles under her name, Robinson had her work cut out for her while curating the documentary’s overall creative vision.

“This is not a complete history lesson, or a step-by-step of what happened,” she said. “They are a series of snapshots in the overall history of the creation of Canada. And I think it's a really good primer to open people's eyes and to want to learn more, to be open-minded into learning more.”

The film was produced by Eagle Vision, an Indigenous-owned production company for The History Channel with the support of Corus Entertainment.

“This is telling stories, particularly Indigenous stories. It’s what I based my career on; what I have always aspired to do. So for me, it's a dream come true,” Robinson said.

“It's definitely not an easy job. There's definitely lots of fear and, of course, second-doubting yourself. But that's gonna happen with any job you do. But there's a vulnerability that's involved in it. Where that comes from is that you want to ensure that you're doing everything correctly; that you are telling these stories as accurately and responsibly and respectfully as you can… That is always my goal at the end of the day.

Robinson said The History Channel and Corus were “wonderful” to work with, leaving full creative control in her team’s hands.

"The History Channel is proud to provide a platform to share this important narrative more broadly,” said Lisa Godfrey, senior vice president of original content at Corus Studios. “Through the medium of television, a documentary as researched and engaging as True Story can contribute to moving the conversation around reconciliation and historical education forward.”

Another of the film’s main creators is executive producer Rebecca Gibson, who Robinson first met while attending the Academy of Broadcasting in Winnipeg.

“[Gibson] has changed my life and has given me so many opportunities to sharpen, nurture and help grow myself as a filmmaker, as an artist,” Robinson said.

Eagle Vision was approached by Corus and The History Channel with what Robinson called a “concept to talk about the history of relationships between indigenous people and settlers on what is now Canada.”

She said “It happened very quickly” and Robinson and Gibson got to work on a framework for the project over the course of the last year.

True Story navigates potentially triggering topics for its audiences, such as the history of colonialism and the residential schools system.

“We have put a disclaimer and phone numbers that people can reach out to, and I think we've done a really good job at being delicate around those topics,” Robinson said.

She said the topics are going to “challenge the narratives that we've all been taught and told, or things that we were not taught and told about colonization, about the violence and that our history and the way that Canada was created, it wasn't all positive.”

The film is narrated by Kahnawake Mohawk actress Kaniehtiio Horn, who has previously worked on projects such as comedy series Rutherford Falls, Letterkenny, and Reservation Dogs.

“We knew she would be the voice of True Story,” Robinson said. “And we are very fortunate that she agreed to come on, that she liked the content. She likes the project and believes in it. She is somebody that we wanted to work with from the get-go.”

The documentary, which premiered on The History Channel last week, is available to stream on STACKTV, which can be accessed through Amazon Prime Channels, FuboTV, Rogers Ignite TV and Ignite SmartStream.

Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.