This 12 months’s unprecedented iteration of the Toronto Worldwide Movie Competition, hosted nearly for non-Canadian press, gives American critics a novel alternative for discovery. Sometimes, the competition overflows with sufficient status titles to make exploring TIFF’s yearly depth of Canadian-produced movies a luxurious; this 12 months solely has 50 feature-length titles. Specifically, I used to be impressed by two Canadian works starring Indigenous protagonists, and one centered on a Mexican household.
Impressed by true occasions, Tracey Deer’s debut function “Beans” retells the 1990 Oka Disaster (which witnessed two Mohawk communities in Quebec protesting to save lots of their sacred burial grounds) from the attitude of a tween. Beans (Kiawentiio), as all people affectionately calls her, is a lady coming of age, who desperately needs to make her mother and father proud. Whereas her mom Lily (Rainbow Dickerson) would like she attend the white, hoity-toity Queen Heights Academy for varsity, her father (Joel Montgrand) would slightly she stays near her Indigenous roots. However her mother and father’ needs turn out to be the least of her issues when the native white authorities decides to construct a golf course over the group’s sacred grounds, precipitating a violent standoff.
When she meets April (Paulina Alexis), an intimidating teen who can educate her to “toughen-up,” Beans transitions from a lady caught between worlds to a tween grappling with adolescence and maturity. The once-innocent Beans begins to affiliate power with suppressing ache, and shortly April’s dangerously mature friends additional injury the tween. Beans begins to drink and succumbs to violent outbursts. Whereas a few of Beans’ rising pains play as unsettling—there’s a second that compares to the SUV scene in “Eighth Grade”—some are endearing. For instance, the primary time she says “f**ok” causes her to cowl mouth and look right into a mirror surrounded by her stuffed dolls.
In her debut movie, Kiawentiio gives a standout efficiency that stretches past her years, particularly as Beans rebels with full rage in opposition to each her mother and father and cops. Although Deer does depend on well-worn coming-of-age tropes, which succeed to various levels, Kiawentiio elevates the acquainted into one thing new. As a result of whereas white audiences have a plethora of those tales, narratives about Indigenous women studying to traverse their newfound maturity are few and much between. Deer gives one other distinctive twist by mixing archival information footage of the Oka Disaster with Beans’ story. Thereby, matching the younger lady’s inner battle with exterior standoff. These arresting blasts from the previous typically resonate greater than Beans’ journey, however by no means an excessive amount of to utterly overshadow. As a substitute, Deer’s “Beans” exults as a candy debut for each her and Kiawentiio.
Creators Michelle Latimer and Tony Elliott’s teen folklore present “Trickster” gives one other thrilling Indigenous narrative. Primarily based on Eden Robinson’s novel, the sequence follows Jared (Joel Oulette), an Indigenous 17-year-old struggling to take care of his dysfunctional mother and father. A drug seller, by all appearances, Jared is as quaint because the tiny forested city he calls residence. However, his first onscreen look finds him cooking up drugs inside a shed. Along with his chiseled jaw and well mannered demeanor, we’d imagine him extra as a Clark Kent than a Walter White. However a tough partying mom (Crystle Lightning) and welfare scamming father (Craig Lauzon) necessitate his working part-time at a quick meals joint’s drive via, even whereas promoting medication on the facet.
The early chapters of “Trickster”—of which two episodes got for assessment—rush by in a blink because of Latimer’s enthralling meshing of supernatural conjuring with acquainted teen tropes. For instance, the sequence’ opening, which takes place 17 years previously, finds a child Jared kidnapped by a legendary man within the forest. Although his mom recovers him, when the creature returns within the present-day, we come to find that he’s a shapeshifter. Amid a sequence of mystical occasions, Jared can be compelled to cope with not solely the travails of being a youngster, comparable to partying together with his nerdy finest good friend, however coping with a spirit who turns into his doppelgänger.
Latimer mixes these components with evocative Indigenous folklore, comparable to a raven who speaks to Jared, and magical conjurings, just like the arcane ceremony his mom performs by a campfire. Latimer additionally injects an ‘80s video game-inspired rating to additional enliven the briskly paced episodes. Whereas some cogs match clumsily, I by no means discovered Jared notably plausible as a loner, the younger teen’s journey to find the key behind the night time he was kidnapped all the time makes emotional sense. Latimer’s “Trickster” is the uncommon story the place Indigenous folklore isn’t twisted into a skinny plot system, however reimagined right into a enjoyable teen thriller.
Nicolás Pereda’s two-act movie “Fauna” doesn’t concern itself with tweens or teenagers. Fairly the intentionally paced, dry comedy by the Mexican-born Toronto transplant opens as a slice-of-life story about a clumsy household reunion. Paco (Francisco Barreiro) and Luisa (Luisa Pardo), each actors, arrive in a small Mexican city, as soon as occupied by a mine, to go to the latter’s mother and father. When the couple arrive, they befriend Luisa’s brother Gabino (Lázaro Gabino Rodríguez), solely to find the mother and father aren’t residence. Pereda’s screenplay supplies loads of hints in regards to the trio’s previous. As an example, when Luisa asks Gabino about his girlfriend, he tells her that he’s been single for eleven months.
Within the silence of his lengthy takes, Pereda discovers wealthy laughs. When Luisa’s mom and father arrive residence, her dad obsessively asks Paco in regards to the narco-themed present he’s appearing in. An awesome gag finds the dad in a bar asking Luisa’s boyfriend to exhibit his appearing capability. Paco struggles as a result of his character on the narco present has no dialogue. However, Paco fashions as a scene the place he’s a gangster. Barreiro portrays Paco’s discomfort, expressed in his measured exasperation, to side-splitting. The scene additionally serves as a reminder for the way Mexico’s ongoing drug battle has permeated into in style tradition. Later, Luisa finds her brother studying a novella a couple of man arriving on the town in the hunt for a lacking miner.
Pereda ably switches from the household comedy right into a neo-noir primarily based within the unconscious of Gabino, who imagines himself because the novella’s protagonist. The artful flip refashions Barreiro into an intimidating heel and Pardo as two separate characters: sisters Flora and the femme fatale Fauna. Whereas the primary act belongs to Barreiro, Rodríguez and Pardo take heart stage within the second half. Their uncomfortable chemistry gives deadpan laughs as Rodríguez’s character investigates the aforementioned miner’s disappearance. Slapdash costumes—each actors put on deliberately horrible wigs—solely enlivens the narrative’s purposeful absurdity.
Whereas “Fauna” works finest as a slice of life—I fairly loved the refined methods Pereda constructed out these characters earlier than the switch-up—the style bender’s second half welcomes an intriguing dissection of how crime tales worm into our imaginations. A breezy movie, the ultimate minutes see Rodríguez’s character changing into embroiled within the jealousy of Fauna’s narco promoting boyfriend. Pereda nimbly turns these thrilling scenes right into a second of reconciliation for Gabino and Luisa, which permits the narrative to exist someplace between the unconscious and the acutely aware. With its lovely huge pictures of small-town Mexico, Pereda’s “Fauna” cunningly mixes witty comedy with neo-noir suspense for a wise angle on the nation’s ongoing drug battle.