Last night the tiddas and I went to the see the powerful First Nations Québécois film Mesnak. Frightening and familiar scenes, parallels with our own communities, and a pervasive post-colonial melancholia left us weeping.
The director, Yves Sioui Durand, grew up on the Huron-Wendat Wendake Reserve and spent many years in communities in Canada before co-writing and directing the film. Mesnak is the first feature to be released by an Indigenous director in Quebec, shot in Innu and French. Loosely based on the plot of Hamlet, Mesnak follows the story of Dave, a young urban Aboriginal man whose search for his mother reunites him with country but also with the painful secrets and confronting realities of his community and his past. To me Mesnak was more real and much more tragic than the narrative Shakespeare imagined.
I wanted to include an extract from the Origins Festival brochure in which Sioui-Durand talks about the film…
I had started to wonder back in 2002 what would become of Native Americans: the lies, political exclusion, corruption of principles and the ignorance of Aboriginal leaders with regard to the place that art occupies in the heart of any society. The movie became necessary through an exploration of origins, rejection, abandonment, and the reality of living a life which isn’t one’s own. Rediscovering one’s roots is also about recognising that your people have a common destiny.
I think that Aboriginals have Shakespearean destinies. They are larger than life and the issues they are faced with touch the whole community. “To be or not to be?” is the big question that every Aboriginal asks himself or herself at some point. When the world rejects you, should you stay true to yourself and at what price? On the other hand, family secrets and hidden truths are now part and parcel of an Aboriginal way of life that is swamped by collective alienation. Something is rotten in the State of Kinogamish! Here’s another big question: “Is love still possible in a world riddled with betrayal?” Like Hamlet, Dave is an idealist ruled by a love for justice. He is engaged in a search for identity. He has no choice but to find out where he comes from, to meet the mother who abandoned him, then to make peace with her and with himself. – Yves Sioui Durand
There are some pretty dark themes in the film and it includes nudity, sex scenes, violence and drug references. Not suitable for jarjums but an incredible and important film to see!!
See the trailer for the film here – http://vimeo.com/54813980