10/23/2014 02:34 EDT | Updated 12/23/2014 05:59 EST

5 top picks for the imagineNATIVE film festival

If you are an avid film festival fan and you are in Toronto right now, you are in luck. The imagineNATIVE film + media arts festival is in town until Sunday.  

This celebration of indigenous film and media will showcase over 130 works representing more than 70 distinct indigenous nations from 12 different countries, including Canada.

You can show your savviness of film festivals by telling your pals that the most important indigenous film and media arts festival in the world  - in my opinion -- just turned 15. Happy Birthday, imagineNATIVE!

- Visit CBC Aboriginal

Or you can brag about the powerful and creative indigenous voices that are a part of this year’s lineup including: DJ Bear Witness of A Tribe Called Red, Canadian novelist Joseph Boyden, as well as award winning and multi-disciplinary artist Caroline Monnet, to name a few.

Here are five films or events not be missed this year.

1: The Embargo Collective II – Closing Gala 

Sunday at 6:30PM – TIFF Bell Lightbox

The way you close a festival says a lot and imagineNATIVE is going for a strong finish this year.

“I’m excited to see the Embargo Collective on closing night of the festival - indigenous women's voices in cinema need to be heard more often and this is an incredible collection of filmmakers and works,” says Ryan McMahon, the man behind the popular Red Man Laughing podcast. 

The Embargo Collective II series features five indigenous female filmmakers from across Canada. This highly anticipated evening will begin with world premieres for each of the five films, and conclude with an in-depth and in-cinema panel with the directors: Caroline Monnet, Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, Zoe Leigh Hopkins, Elle-Maija Tailfeathers and Lisa Jackson

2. Storytellers Screening

Saturday at 3:00PM – Tiff Bell Lightbox

If you are looking to be engaged as a writer, a filmmaker, an actor, or just as an audience member this session will bring a new level of live multimedia performance you won’t get anywhere else.

This two-part event features an author and filmmaker collaborating in what imagineNATIVE calls a “storyteller screening”. 

Author and activist Maria Campbell collaborates with filmmaker Shane Belcourt, and literary star Joseph Boyden teams up with master of animation Terril Calder

It's followed by an in-depth panel discussion with all the artists, hosted by CBC Aborigireporter, Connie Walker.

3. Kaha:wi: The Cycle of Life – World Premiere  

Thursday at 7:30PM - Tiff Bell Lightbox

I had the pleasure of being on the set for Kaha:wi: Cycle of Life; it’s a cinematic dessert for the eyes, a dance film focusing on  performer & choreographer  Santee Smith, who tells traditional Iroquois legends through contemporary dance.

“Because Santee is a majestic powerhouse and everyone in her entourage is stunning, my first-time dance film was reduced to: ‘keep in focus’,” says director Shane Belcourt.

I'm so excited to see how it has come together. I'll be front row centre this Thursday, (Popcorn in hand, of course).

4. Australia Spotlight VI: Shorts II

Sunday at 3:45PM – TIFF Bell Lightbox

This year’s international spotlight shines on the land down under.

This collection of shorts brings some amazing directors and award-winning films to the festival including: Frankie’s Story, winner of three Australian film institute awards, and two films directed by Tyson Mowarin, who received the Troy Alberts Award for Excellence in Cinematography.

There is a deep connection with imagineNATIVE and Australia. I caught up with the founder of imagineNATIVE, Cynthia Lickers-Sage, who pointed out that imagineNATIVE was shaped by its early Australian influences such as Pauline Clague, who curated this collection of shorts.

It’s easy to see why more than one person will be saying: Aussie Aussie Aussie!

5. Indigo (TIFF Official Selection) opening for the world premiere of The Lodge

Thursday at 5:15PM – Tiff Bell Lightbox

Stop-motion film has always been fascinating to me,  I am drawn to the creative mastery that flows from thousands of frames onto the big screen.

This one-two powerhouse punch of stop-motion films has my attention and my vote as a must see event!

Indigo is directed by Amanda Strong, who was named one of “Six emerging aboriginal artists in Canada who are inspiring change” by the National Post. Indigo was an official selection for the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival and Strong has created a lot of buzz around the film scene for her animation brilliance, dream like imagery and traditional storytelling.

“I am honoured and humbled to be opening for the amazing Terril Calder's first stop-motion feature film The Lodge," says Amanda Strong.

The Lodge is director Terril Calder's first full-length feature in the festival, with previous works playing at imagineNATIVE over the years and at festivals worldwide.

Now that you’ve got my list, comment, like, share; let me know what are you looking forward to. I’ll see you at the movies!

CBC Aboriginal on Facebook or on Twitter @CBC_Aboriginal or contact me directly @itsKinosh #iN15th