Sarah Abbott

Film Department
Associate Professor

Office: ED 239.8
Phone: 306-585-4437

Research interests
Environment, climate crisis; human and nonhuman knowing and rights; trees; ethics; experiences of being; ethnographic inquiry; community engagement; Indigenous methodologies, cultures, and knowledge systems; decolonization.

Sarah Abbott's research, community projects, films, and artist works have focused on experiences of being, human and nonhuman knowing and rights, ethics and the environment for over twenty years. Her film work (documentary, narrative, experimental, and dance) has received national and international attention through film festivals, television broadcasts, awards, and funding. Sarah received the 2012 Saskatchewan Lieutenant Governor’s Arts Award for Arts and Learning, and the 2009 Regina Mayor's Arts and Business Awards for Innovation in recognition of her filmmaking endeavours, innovative teaching, ability to bridge cultures, commitment to empowering people, and passion for communicating hard-hitting issues. Her work has largely focused on Indigenous issues and culture since her film Tide Marks (2004). At the University of Regina, Sarah developed a teaching model wherein film production students work alongside film industry experts on a professionally-run set. She produced two dramatic films through these classes: Out In The Cold (30:00, 2008), inspired by the freezing deaths of Indigenous men, allegedly at the hands of Saskatoon police; and This Time Last Winter (25:00, 2010), which explores violence in young relationships, interracial relationships, and the healing potential of talking circles. Following the Saskatchewan premiere screenings of these films, Sarah held panel discussions on the topics of Indigenous/police relations and violence in young relationships with Regina and Saskatoon police chiefs and local experts participating. From 2005 to 2010, Sarah was the consistent energy that led to the founding of mispon – A Celebration of Indigenous Filmmaking film festival and advocacy collective in Regina. In 2013, she developed a media literacy course for Indigenous youth held at a Regina community centre, Engaging Media and Indigenous Youth. In 2020, Sarah taught the first course in climate change for the Faculty of MAP, Engaging Climate Change: Creativity, Community, Intervention. She will be offering this multidisciplinary course again in Fall 2020.

Sarah is currently completing her doctorate (ABD) in interdisciplinary social sciences at Royal Roads University. Through ethnographic inquiry and Indigenous Research Methodologies, her dissertation research and resulting film aim to understand and share knowledge of the sentience, intelligence and relationality of trees with public and academic audiences. Sarah received a Vanier Canada Scholarship to support her doctoral studies. 


  • In progress - Doctor of Social Sciences, Interdisciplinary Studies, Faculty of Social and Applied Sciences, Royal Roads University, Victoria, expected graduation 2021. Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship (2014-2017); Royal Roads Entrance Scholarship (2014-2017).
  • MFA, Media Arts, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, 2003. All-University Graduate Fellowship (2000-2003).
  • BA Hons, Film Studies and Drama, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, 1991.


Abbott, S. (in press). Approaching nonhuman ontologies: Trees, communication, and qualitative inquiry.  Qualitative Inquiry. Sage Choice open access.


Abbott, S. & Leadbeater, S. (2020). If a Tree Falls... Perspectives on Sentience. In R. Povall, S. Lloyd, & J. Ralph (Eds.), Evolving the Forest (pp. 175-182). Kingsbridge, UK: Books.

Abbott, S. (2020). Filming with nonhumans. In Vannini, P. (Ed) Handbook of ethnographic film and video, (pp. 224-233). New York and London: Routledge.

Vannini, P. & Abbott, S. (2019). Academics writing for a broader public audience. In Leavy, P. (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of methods for public scholarship (pp. 603-622). New York: Oxford University Press.

Abbott, S. & Vannini, P. (2019). After the fine cut: Disseminating video-based research. In Kleinknecht, S., van den Scott, L., and Sanders, C. (Eds), The craft of qualitative research: A handbook (pp. 358–364). Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press.

Vannini, P. & Abbott S. (2018). Going public: The reach and impact of ethnographic research. In Leavy, P. (Ed.), Handbook of arts-based research (pp. 689-704). New York: Guilford Press.


  • 2021gestures toward Plant Visions, film (10:00, Canada/Italy).
    A filmic meditation by Sarah Abbott inviting consideration of visual perception in vegetal beings.
  • 2020 - Academics for Climate (AFC). Alongside URegina colleagues Britt Hall (Science) and Sean Tucker (Business Administration), Sarah created the group Academics for Climate (AFC). The first AFC project was the Academics for Climate Community Series, which consisted of 9 of 14 lectures held January-March 2020. Available for viewing on the AFC YouTube channel:
  • 2014-2017 - Vanier Canada Scholarship in support of doctoral studies.

  • 2013 - Engaging Media and Indigenous Youth, community-based 8-week teaching project developed and led by Sarah to engage Indigenous youth on issues of media literacy and Indigenous culture, and to develop knowledge and skills in media awareness and Indigenous filmmaking, communication and critical thinking. Video about the project:
  • 2013 - This Time Last Winter the Making Of (25:00, Canada). Behind the scenes on the production of This Time Last Winter, with commentary on the making of the film by key crew members and actors:
  • 2012 - Saskatchewan Lieutenant Governor’s Arts Award for Arts and Learning.
  • 2011In the Minds of All Beings: Tsogyal Latso of Tibet (21:00, Tibet/Canada/USA). Documentary about Yeshe Tsogyal, the first enlightened woman in Tibet; shot on location in Central Tibet. Directed, shot and edited by Sarah Abbott, written by Sarah Abbott & Lama Dechen Yeshe Wangmo. View the film:
  • 2010This Time Last Winter (25:00, Canada). Narrative film about violence in young relationships, interracial relationships, and the healing potential of talking circles. Directed by Ann Verrall, written by Sarah Abbott and Ann Verrall, produced by Sarah Abbott. Award: Best Actress Danna Henderson), Winnipeg Aboriginal Film Festival, 2010. Film trailer:
  • 2009 - Regina Mayor’s Arts and Business Award for Innovation in the Arts for production of Out In The Cold.
  • 2008Out In The Cold (30:00, Canada). Narrative film inspired by the freezing deaths of First Nations men in Saskatoon allegedly at the hands of police. Directed by Colleen Murphy, written by Cheryl Jack, produced and edited by Sarah Abbott. Award: Best Special Effects, University of Toronto Film Festival, 2010. Honourable Mention, Fiction Short, University Film and Video Association, 2013. Nominations: Best Live Action Short, American Indian Film Festival, 2008; Male Lead Performance (Gordon Tootoosis & Mathew Strongeagle), Editing, Original Score, and Post-Production Special Effects, Saskatchewan Motion Picture Industry Association Showcase Awards, 2009.  For this work, Sarah was one of five URegina faculty featured in Realize, the university president’s 2009 report to the community
  • 2008The Last Fish, guest curated exhibition at the MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina. This artist engagement with the permanent collection resulted in an exhibition centered on an homage to the last fish alive in the face of ecological crisis due to human impact on the environment, and the notion we used to take for granted that the environment would be abundant, pristine, and forever available to us.
  • 2005-2010 – Co-founder and President of mispon: A Celebration of Indigenous Film festival, Regina
  • 2005-2006 – Co-coordinator of the Food Bank Lecture series, University of Regina and the Regina Food Bank. Lunchtime speaker series designed to bring food bank users and URegina faculty and students together for inspiring talks and lunch.
  • 2004Tide Marks (97:00, Canada/USA/South Africa). Feature-length documentary explores aspects of post-apartheid South Africa ten years after the first democratic elections, with a focus on the lives of four former freedom fighters. Directed, written, produced, shot and edited by Sarah Abbott. Filmed on location in Cape Town, South Africa.  Excerpts from Tide Marks:
  • 2000-2003 – Art video works produced through Master of Fine Arts degree. looking back to see (19:30, USA/Canada) was one of five video works selected by Lewis Kaye for his curated exhibition exploring archival issues, Hearing Video (Vtape, March 2018).
  • 1999 The Light in our Lizard Bellies (8:00, Canada). Dance film featuring performance, choreography and vocal work of Susanna Hood. Directed, written, produced, edited and shot by Sarah Abbott. Award: Honourable Mention, Ann Arbor Film Festival, 2000. Film included in DVD compilations released through the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre, and the University Film and Video Association in the United States.
  • 1997Why I Hate Bees (4:00, Canada). A comedic experimental reflection of a young girl’s memories of near death experiences, based on the short story by Nancy Jo Cullen. Directed, written, produced, edited and shot by Sarah Abbott. Awards: Grand Prize – Cabbagetown Film Festival, Toronto, 1999; Best Canadian Lesbian Short, Inside Out, Toronto, 1998; Honourable Mention, Ann Arbor Film Festival, 2000. Curated for the 40th anniversary of Inside Out film festival, Toronto, 2020.
  • 1997 – Froglight (3:30, Canada). Experimental reflection on having faith in the unknown. Directed, written, produced, edited and shot by Sarah Abbott. Award: Honourable Mention, Ann Arbor Film Festival, 2000.
  • 1991 – My Withered Tomato Friend (9:00, Canada). An experimental film questioning conventional ideologies of representation of women and the denial of domestic violence. Made in collaboration with Michelle Harrison. Award: “One Star,” Canadian International Film Festival, 1992.