The Spirit Within

Reelworld Retrospective

Saturday, October 19th   I   11 AM   I    Famous Players Canada Square Cinemas

Documentary   I   51 Minutes   I   Canada


Gil Cardinal, Wil Campbell


James Jeffrey


Gerald K. Wilson


Jerry D. Krepakevich, Graydon McCrea

Production Company


In a trend that’s worsened over the last decade, Indigenous people are overrepresented in Canada’s prison system and it’s a pattern that shows no signs of slowing down. 

We take a look back at Gil Cardinal and Wil Campbell’s 1990 documentary on Native spirituality programmes that helped Indigenous men get in touch with their roots and avoid the revolving door that would see them back in prison after release. 

Cardinal and Campbell enter the
programme on heels of its inception - at the time it was almost unheard of for indigenous prisoners to have access to their own Elders and spiritual ceremonies. Lead by the wisdom of Bobby Woods, an Elder who was in and out of prison for 27 years himself, we see intimate portraits of young Indigenous men who share the psychological burden that prison weighs on them, while reexamining their lives and discussing the impact of these workshops. For many of them, programmes like these were their first contact with Elders and the spirituality of their tribes. 

Join us for this special retrospective screening, followed by a panel discussion on Indigenous over-incarceration in Canada today.  


Content Warning: Some use of homophobic language


Language: English


Co-presented with imagineNATIVE

WATCH THE trailer below:

gil cardinal.jpeg



Born to a Métis mother and raised by a non-Indigenous foster family, the late Gil Cardinal was a groundbreaking filmmaker who embodied the complicated history of Canada’s Indigenous Peoples. His body of work includes NFB releases like The Spirit Within and David with F.A.S., along with big-budget TV projects like Indian Summer: The Oka Crisis. “Gil made it possible for us to think about putting our own stories on the screen—and that was something new and important,” says Jesse Wente, Director of Canada’s Indigenous Screen Office. Cardinal’s autobiographical Foster Child (1987) is considered a landmark of Indigenous cinema.

Wil Campbell.jpg



Wil Campbell is a Pipekeeper for the Healing Our Spirit Worldwide Conference and Sundance Chief for the World Council of Elders, Wil maintains his own lodge in Edmonton that supports approximately 120 people who come at various times for ceremonies, counseling and other supports. Wil works with many other organizations in his local community and is an Elder with Native Counselling Services of Alberta. His experience working with Indigenous men’s healing programs provides community-based grounding and direction for the project. Wil is part of an informal network of Elders and community organizations across Canada who work with Indigenous men.

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