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.