Alanis Obomsawin Awarded the Glenn Gould Prize


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Toronto, ON (October 15, 2020) – Prolific documentary filmmaker, singer-songwriter, visual artist, activist and member of the Abenaki Nation, Alanis Obomsawin C.C., G.O.Q., C.A.L.Q. has been chosen as the thirteenth Glenn Gould Prize Laureate. During her 53-year filmmaking career, Canada’s Alanis Obomsawin has devoted herself to chronicling the lives and concerns of First Nations people.

“What wonderful news for me to learn that I had been given such an honour, especially receiving it while I am at home in Odanak. I was so surprised and to think that the jury members come from all around the world makes it even more special. I look forward to meeting all of them when we will be able to do so,” said Alanis Obomsawin.

Obomsawin was chosen from a distinguished list of international candidates across a broad spectrum of creative disciplines, nominated by members of the general public worldwide. She will receive a cash award of $100,000 (CAD) and the Glenn Gould Prize statue by Canadian artist Ruth Abernethy.

“Our wide-ranging discussions in the jury brought us to the deep and luminous work of Alanis Obomsawin. We are all so very proud to honor this magnificent artist,” said Laurie Anderson, Chair of the Glenn Gould Prize Jury.

“Alanis Obomsawin’s story is a moving chronicle of transcendence, giving voice to the stories, the hopes and dreams of her people, of all Indigenous people,” said Brian Levine, Executive Director of the Glenn Gould Foundation. “Through the honesty of her films, the passion of her music and the vision captured in her printmaking, she illuminates us all with a message of hope, a demand for justice, and an extended hand of understanding and compassion that is truly universal.”

Alanis Obomsawin has directed more than 50 films for the National Film Board of Canada, where she has worked since 1967. Now 88, she continues to make films. Most recently, she completed a seven-film cycle devoted to the rights of Indigenous children and peoples. Her body of work includes landmark films Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance documenting the 1990 Mohawk uprising, which received 18 international awards, and Incident at Restigouche, a behind-the-scenes look at police raids on a Mi’gmaq reserve. She received news of winning the Glenn Gould Prize while on set making a new film about a dream she had as a young woman.

In addition to her legendary filmmaking career, Ms. Obomsawin is a prolific visual artist. Her engravings and prints have been exhibited internationally. As a singer-songwriter, Ms. Obomsawin has toured Canada, the United States, and Europe performing for humanitarian causes at universities, museums, prisons and festivals. In fall 2021, the retrospective Alanis Obomsawin: Lifework will be presented at the Haus der Kulturnen der Welt in Berlin.

Ms. Obomsawin is the recipient of numerous awards and honours including Companion of the Order of Canada (2019), Directors Guild of Canada Honourary Life Member Award (2018), ten Lifetime Achievement awards and 14 honourary doctorates. She has served on the boards of the NFB, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, the Canada Council, and the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal.

Ms. Obomsawin will choose an outstanding young artist or ensemble who embodies creative promise, innovation and career potential to receive the $15,000 (CAD) Glenn Gould Protégé Prize. The recipient of the Protégé Prize will be announced later this year. Both Ms. Obomsawin and her protégé will receive their awards at a gala ceremony and their work will be honoured through a series of public events in Toronto, post-COVID.

The thirteenth Glenn Gould Prize Jury was chaired by pioneering artist, musician and director Laurie Anderson (United States), and included renowned pianist and music educator Dr. Surojeet Chatterji (India); writer, photographer, art historian and winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award Teju Cole (Nigeria/United States); best-selling author of novels, graphic novels, comics, theatre, TV and films and winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards Neil Gaiman (United Kingdom); Grammy Award-winning musician, composer and producer Chilly Gonzales (Canada); composer, conductor and producer Harry Gregson-Williams (United Kingdom); pianist, musicologist and educator Dr. Adam Greig (Scotland/India); Grammy Award-winning violinist Hilary Hahn(United States); Grammy Award-winning Jazz vocalist and recent winner of a MacArthur “genius” grant Cécile McLorin Salvant (United States); Emmy Award-winning actor Tatiana Maslany (Canada); Academy Award-winning composer, singer-songwriter, music producer and philanthropist A.R. Rahman(India); composer, producer and core member of Arcade Fire Richard Reed Parry (Canada); and designer and recipient of the Legion of Honour Philippe Starck (France).

About the Glenn Gould Prize
The Glenn Gould Foundation honours the spirit and legacy of Canadian pianist, writer, and broadcaster Glenn Gould. Every two years, the Foundation convenes an international jury to award the Glenn Gould Prize to a living individual for a unique lifetime contribution that has enriched the human condition through the arts. Past laureates of the international prize include Jessye Norman (2018), Philip Glass (2015), Leonard Cohen (2011), El Sistema founder Dr. José Antonio Abreu (2008) and Pierre Boulez (2002).

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