Indigenous Canadian director channels traumatic memories into film
While Beans’ struggles relate specifically to his time and place, they are likely to resonate with anyone who raised a teenager – or was one. When Beans practices profanity in front of her bedroom mirror, smiling proudly when she finally utters a curse, it’s impossible not to notice the doll and the stuffed animals still on her desk. And any onlooker will be alarmed when an older, tough girl encourages Beans to hurt herself so that she is impervious to the pain inflicted by others.
“It doesn’t matter if you’ve never heard of the Oka Crisis,” Deer said, adding that the character is coming of age “in a tumultuous, unwelcoming world that indicates where we are right now.”
An incident during filming reinforced this point of view. Deer shot “Beans” at several locations where historic events occurred, including the Honoré Mercier Bridge, which Mohawk protesters blocked off during the crisis. This is also where the confrontation of the throwing of stones, recreated in the film, took place. When Deer began filming in 2019, the structure was partially closed for maintenance. But some motorists, she said, assumed the film crew had closed the road.
“They were beeping us and yelling at us and running their engines,” said Deer, who added that occupants of a car started yelling racial slurs. Thirty years after the Oka crisis, she said, “the same kind of moment has played out.”
To show that she didn’t distort the historical context, Deer used archival footage throughout the film, in one case inserting an actor into the Mohawk protesters in a 1990 news clip. remembered it was so violent, so negative, so traumatic, ”Gélinas said, describing the public response in Canada, where the response to“ Beans ”has been overwhelmingly positive.
Although the Oka dispute ended in September 1990 with the cancellation of the golf course expansion, disputes over land rights continue. But in the Canadian cultural sphere, the concerns of Indigenous peoples are gaining increasing attention, said Jesse Wente, president of the Canada Council for the Arts and executive director of the Indigenous Screen Office in Toronto. (The organization supports native film projects but has not contributed to the funding of “Beans.”)