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#TIFF20 Review: Beans (Discovery)

September 16, 2020

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

A Mohawk girl comes of age against the backdrop of the Oka Crisis in Beans, a drama that reimagines the 1990 showdown between several levels of police and Indigenous land protectors from two Quebec Mohawk communities, who were trying to stop the town of Oka’s planned expansion of a golf course onto Native burial ground, from a child’s eye view.

Beans is the nickname given to Tekehentahkhwa (Kiawentiio), a twelve year old girl with a bright future ahead of her. But as the protests start and her community devolves into chaos, the relatively innocent life that she enjoys with her little sister (Violah Beauvais) and pregnant mother (Rainbow Dickerson) falls into disarray, and Beans starts to experience the racism and resentment of many white Quebecers first hand. She channels her confusion and anger at what is going on around her into hanging out with a group of tough older kids, sending her down a somewhat messy path as she tries to find her voice.

It’s an interesting idea to examine the impact that this tense standoff, which stretched on for three months throughout the summer of 1990, had on an adolescent girl still in the process of exploring her identity, and the results are solid if slightly mixed. The film serves as the feature directorial debut of Tracey Deer, a documentary filmmaker who was also the co-creator of the show Mohawk Girls, and she does show a level of confidence in her dramatization of the Oka Crisis itself.

Deer seamlessly blends archival TV news footage from the time with recreations of the protests that are staged with the feel of a thriller, and these are the most compelling parts of the film. But the coming of age story that it tells is somewhat predictable and clichéd, and it can feel like some of the air is being let out of the film when it stops focusing directly on the crisis. Still, Beans is a well directed first feature that cements Deer as a filmmaker to watch, and has enough stirring moments to make it worth seeing.

Violah Beauvais and Kiawentiio in Beans

Public Screenings:

Sunday, September 13th – 12:00 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

Sunday, September 13th – 12:30 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

Tuesday, September 15th – 6:00 PM at Bell Digital Cinema (Online for 24 Hours)

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