On Sunday, November 5th, thousands of participants at the Manito Ahbee (Manitoba Aboriginal Festival) in Winnipeg watched the new CineFocus-Paquin Pictures documentary Buffy Sainte-Marie: A Multimedia Life. The doc airs on Bravo! on Nov. 14/06 at 8 pm ET.
The documentary was introduced by Manitoba’s Minister of Culture, Eric Robinson. Then the four giant screens on the score clock at Winnipeg’s MTS centre were lowered, the lights dimmed and for the next 48 minutes people took in the exciting new doc on Buffy’s life and work. Buffy was there herself and participated in the awards ceremony at the end of the pow wow.
BUFFY SAINTE-MARIE: A MULTIMEDIA LIFE
This inspiring biography chronicles the remarkable story of Aboriginal artist Buffy Sainte-Marie as she rises to prominence in New York’s Greenwich Village folk music scene and blazes a groundbreaking path as a talented songwriter, activist, educator and artist. An Academy Award winner, Buffy was also a regular on Sesame Street and an early pioneer in the use of computers to create art and connect people.
Buffy Sainte-Marie: A Multimedia Life tells us of Buffy’s progression from a baby born on a reserve in rural Saskatchewan and adopted into a 1940s working class American family to her present maturity, and in each life stage she demonstrates a unique creativity, determination, and sense of self.
As a world-renowned singer-songwriter, Buffy Sainte-Marie asks us to probe beneath the surface to hear her political messages. And as a Native American, she implores us to look beyond the stereotypes of her community to see their rich culture. In her music, in her art, and in her role on Sesame Street, Buffy has seamlessly traversed the worlds of creative expression and activism, and of show biz culture and Native culture, balancing them in her personal life and bridging them in the public's eye.
The documentary begins with Buffy’s emergence on the college coffeehouse scene in the early 1960s and follows her to New York City where she meets Bob Dylan and is discovered by New York Times music critic, Robert Shelton. A talented songwriter, Buffy’s early love songs were recorded by numerous artists including Bobby Darin, Elvis Presley and Barbara Streisand. However, the strong political stance of protest songs like Universal Soldier and Now That The Buffalo’s Gone resulted in the banning of her music on American airwaves, a move that threatened to stifle Buffy’s music career.
Undeterred, Buffy came back – first as a television personality on Sesame Street and then by winning an Oscar for co-writing Up Where We Belong, the theme to the 1982 movie An Officer and a Gentleman that starred Richard Gere and Debra Winger.
As well as these past achievements the documentary follows Buffy in her life today. Director Joan Prowse (Beauty and the Beach) had unprecedented access and takes viewers on a journey to concert halls, Native reserves, and Buffy’s home in Hawaii, aptly mixing current footage and archival material including a 1964 concert appearance at the Newport Folk Festival, a compelling early TV interview with Pete Seeger, and the induction of Universal Soldier into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005.
Buffy Sainte-Marie: A Multimedia Life features interviews with Buffy’s friends and contemporaries including Joni Mitchell, Bill Cosby, Robbie Robertson (The Band), legendary blues musician Taj Mahal, and John Kay (Steppenwolf). These interviews, coupled with insights from Buffy’s long-term boyfriend and her Saskatchewan relatives paint a personal portrait of an extraordinary person whose talent and passion illustrate what it takes to lead “a multimedia life.”
Buffy Sainte-Marie: A Multimedia Life premiered on Bravo! in November, 2006. Look for future broadcasts on Bravo! and on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network and the Biography Channel across Canada and on SCN in Saskatchewan and the Knowledge Network in British Columbia.