Man Changing into Thunderbird

Institute History


Man Changing into Thunderbird is an unflinching cinematic portrait of Norval Morrisseau, the infamous and lauded forefather of contemporary indigenous art. Born on a reservation in Canada in the 1930s, and later referred to as the “Picasso of the North", he is the first indigenous artist to exhibit work in a contemporary context. His tumultuous life, defined by perpetual transformation, is presented through seven vignettes, each representing one of the seven stages of life in the Anishinaabe worldview. The film resists oversimplification and depicts the many different Morrisseaus: the residential school survivor, the devout Christian, the defender of Anishinaabe traditions, and the innovative contemporary artist. Through juxtaposing these seemingly contradictory elements, a cohesive portrait emerges of a trailblazer who challenged primitive stereotypes and carved out space for Anishinaabe traditions to continue to evolve into the future.


As you use our Online Archives, please understand that the information presented from Festivals, Labs, and other activities is taken directly from official publications from each year. While this information is limited and doesn't necessarily represent the full list of participants (e.g. actors and crew), it is the list given to us by the main film/play/project contact at the time, based on the space restrictions of our publications. Each entry in the Online Archives is meant as a historical record of a particular film, play, or project at the time of its involvement with Sundance Institute. For this reason, we can only amend an entry if a name is misspelled, or if the entry does not correctly reflect the original publication. If you have questions or comments, please email