Kings County fea­tured in film with a mes­sage

Film­maker’s North Moun­tain cre­ates space for two-spirit, In­dige­nous peo­ple

Valley Journal Advertiser - - ARTS - SARA ERICSSON KINGSCOUNTYNEWS. CA Sara. Ericsson@ kingscountynews. ca

It’s a re­verse- west­ern, twospirit thriller di­rected to dis­creetly teach view­ers a thing or two about In­dige­nous iden­ti­ties and de­col­o­niza­tion.

That may sound like a lot, but that’s what In­dige­nous film­maker Bret­ten Han­nam has cap­tured with his film, North Moun­tain, which ex­plores an in­ter­gen­er­a­tional two-spirit ro­mance be­tween two Mi’kmaq men.

Han­nam is used to climb­ing moun­tains, hav­ing grown up on the tit­u­lar North Moun­tain him­self, and says he wel­comed the chal­lenge of bring­ing this in­tri­cate nar­ra­tive to his au­di­ence.

“I al­ways want to ex­plore gen­der and sex­ual iden­ti­ties in terms of In­dige­nous, pre- contact times, and mov­ing into the fu­ture. Some­times, we’re re­dis­cov­er­ing what those el­e­ments are,” he says.

Han­nam, 34, grew up in Kespukwitk First Na­tion. He iden­ti­fies as two-spirit, and says he never saw him­self – In­dige­nous or queer – in any char­ac­ters on TV shows or movies he watched as a youth.

Then, his high school teacher showed him The Hang­ing Gar­den, a queer film by Nova Sco­tian film maker Thom Fitzger­ald.

“I saw, for the first time, part of my ex­pe­ri­ence of who I am re­flected in that,” says Han­nam.

“The fact that it was made in Nova Scotia was also a sur­prise, be­cause I thought all films came from Hol­ly­wood.”

Now, as a film­maker, Han­nam is hop­ing his films con­structed with queer- cen­tric nar­ra­tives reach even more peo­ple like him, who’ve yet to see them­selves re­flected on the screen. Even bet­ter, he says, when they can re­flect In­dige­nous lives as well.

The char­ac­ters’ sex­u­al­i­ties are never ex­plic­itly de­fined in North Moun­tain, the film mak- er’s first fea­ture- length film – some­thing Han­nam says was en­tirely on pur­pose.

“There is no point where some­one ex­plains what twospirit is, and no point where some­one gets on a soap­box say­ing, ‘ this is what we think of in­ter- gen­er­a­tional re­la­tion­ships’,” he says.

“The film tells the story through the char­ac­ters’ ac­tions.”

The film’s set­ting on North Moun­tain is an­other homage for Han­nam, who grew up in the mid­dle of its woods.

He spent lots of time ex­plor­ing the moun­tain, whether on a bike or with his own two feet, and de­vel­oped a strong con­nec­tion to the for­est and land.

“The land is as much a char­ac­ter as the ac­tors are in this film. It has to do with the Mi’kmaq peo­ple, their re­la­tion­ship with the land – it’s in­formed the lan­guage, the cul­ture, the world­view,” says Han­nam.

The film has en­joyed a suc­cess­ful fes­ti­val run, hav­ing won the 2018 Screen Nova Scotia Award for Best Fea­ture Film – some­thing Han­nam says was un­ex­pected.

So un­ex­pected, in fact, that he took a bath­room break from the cer­e­mony as the award was an­nounced.

“I thought, well, there’s no way this is win­ning, so I went to the bath­room. I come back, and next thing I know I’m win­ning an award,” he laughs.

While it’s still to- be- deter­mined whether it will show on screens in Nova Scotia, Han­nam hopes those who see the film walk away feel­ing in­spired to delve deeper into think­ing and act­ing on de­col­o­niza­tion, and in­di­g­e­niza­tion.

He fully in­tends to con­tinue cre­at­ing space for In­dige­nous sto­ries of all kinds since these themes are still lack­ing.

“If I had seen a film like this when I was younger, I’d at least in some ca­pac­ity feel like I was be­ing seen, and that my sto­ries were be­ing told,” he says.

SUB­MIT­TED

Wolf and Crane are the two main char­ac­ters in film­maker Bret­ten Han­nam’s de­but fea­ture film North Moun­tain. Both char­ac­ters are Mi’kmaq and iden­tify as two-spirit.

SUB­MIT­TED

Han­nam calls the film a “re­verse-west­ern” and hopes its nar­ra­tive in­spires peo­ple to think deeper on de­col­o­niza­tion and In­di­g­e­niza­tion.

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