This pair of productions looks at indigenous life in Canada from, seemingly, two vastly different perspectives. Nonetheless, their common link of maintaining identity while being forced to adapt to the white man’s world or living in it—largely independently—makes them ideally suited to be “screenmates.”
Kate Kroll, Marilyn Thomas
2009, 12 min.
Kroll’s lovingly rendered treatment of producer/writer Marilyn Thomas’ delicate script (most effectively reinforced by wide-ranging lines from a sorrowful cello) is a marvel of silent suffering and subtle understatement. Framed by Canada’s disastrous attempt at systemic assimilation to fix the so-called “Indian problem” by forcing innocent children into the hell holes of residential schools (1928-1996), the camera follows the “last three sleeps” of the angelic Shi-shi-etko before being driven out of her life in an open-bed pickup truck. Heroically, she vows “I will remember everything.” Sadly, the nightmare before her will erase the happy recollection of a far-more peaceful life for eternity. No need for the filmmakers to chronicle any of the outrages to come; the court proceedings will continue to fill-in those terrible gaps for a long time yet. JWR
2009, 67 min.
Set in present-day Fort McPherson, Allen’s portrait of the Teetl’it Gwitch community using the conceit of CBQM (a citizen-run AM-radio station, affectionately translated as “Come Back Quick Mom”) is a decidedly uneven affair. At its best, there’s humour (the local RCMP-constable takes his regular turn at the microphone and derides the “egging” of many residential windows—during Easter no less!; the animal-call-for-cash, live-to-air contest is a hoot) and humanity (the community notice-board segments offer instant condolences when there’s a passing, asks specific individuals to hang up their phones when another call needs to get through, reminds anyone drinking not to call in; “just listen to the music” speaks quickly—if somewhat obliquely—to a problem that transcends race or creed). On the debit side of the ledger is a brutally painful fiddler whose contribution goes on long enough to soil the reputation of the far more accomplished musicians in their midst and an attempt by Allen to weave the radio antics into the fabric of the changing seasons—probably looked great on paper—lacks any sort of overarching design. Those elements combine to make this film not much more than a quaint look at the town of nearly-800 as it responds to the rise and fall of the sun and (cross-reference below) the time-passing excitement of play-at-home bingo. JWR