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Fire Song

The Cana­dian film doesn’t shy away from the trau­matic. On a re­mote Anishi­naabe re­serve in north­ern On­tario, a young man grap­ples with his sis­ter’s re­cent sui­cide, a se­cret boyfriend he must hide, a girl­friend baf­fled by his pro­longed celibacy, and a mother so lost in grief and so des­per­ate for a way to pay her mount­ing bills that her son con­tem­plates turn­ing down his col­lege of­fer in Toronto. The re­sult is that he may be for­ever trapped in the re­serve vil­lage he so badly wants to escape.

is the de­but fea­ture of film­maker Adam Gar­net Jones. He also wrote the screen­play, draw­ing heav­ily on his Cree and Métis her­itage, as well as his own trou­bled youth spent nav­i­gat­ing his sex­u­al­ity.

“I wanted to write some­thing that would show some­thing of my ex­pe­ri­ence to a younger gen­er­a­tion. I had a pretty hard time when I was grow­ing up,” said Jones in an in­ter­view with “I was sui­ci­dal from the time I was a young kid to my teenage years, when I found ac­cep­tance get­ting in­volved in queer youth cir­cles.”

Early in the film, we watch as Shane (An­drew Martin) tries to find so­lace in girl­friend Tara (Mary Gal­loway). For view­ers, the young cou­ple’s trysts about town also serve as an ar­chi­tec­tural sur­vey of de­crepit gov­ern­ment hous­ing. Shane and Tara stay up drink­ing at par­ties held in the front yards of shacks, sip­ping il­licit liquor from a gray-mar­ket bar that op­er­ates off a front porch. Traips­ing through yet an­other un­fin­ished house, they at­tempt to make love, but Shane pushes his girl away, “I don’t want to knock you up and get stuck here.”

Though his girl­friend’s gay­dar must be ping­ing at this point, the pair still see each other as mu­tual tick­ets out of town, fever­ishly dream­ing of a new, cos­mopoli­tan life in Toronto. Mean­while, Shane strikes up a clan­des­tine re­la­tion­ship with David (Har­ley Le­garde-Beacham), the grand­son of a re­spected town elder. Both cling to the closet and each other. If had had a Hol­ly­wood bud­get, its sound­track would in­clude Ri­hanna’s song “We Found Love,” with its re­peated lyrics, “We found love in a hope­less place.”

In one of the film’s most vis­ually sump­tu­ous scenes, the cam­era pans across a lake as the two young men ca­noe along the bank, har­vest­ing wild rice in shal­low wa­ter. But the scene is more than a pretty pic­ture. It’s also a rare cine­matic look at gay First Na­tions men as in­te­gral parts of their com­mu­nity, carrying on the tra­di­tions of their an­ces­tors.

“Most, if not all, of the crew grew up in and around the re­serves. For them, the sub­ject mat­ter was re­ally, re­ally close to home,” said Jones. “I think in a lot of films there isn’t that same sense of urgency. Ev­ery­one had a strong sense of need to tell the story in the film.” Jones says four of the cast mem­bers iden­tify as gay or two-spirited, in­clud­ing Ma-Nee Cha­caby, a well­known Ojibwe-Cree two-spirit elder who led the first gay pride pa­rade to be held in Thun­der Bay, On­tario. In the film, she plays Shane’s grand­mother Evie.

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