Entertainment

‘Beautiful renovation act’: Indigenous love and joy in the spotlight at TIFF

Filmmakers are challenging how to portray formerly native love stories with the launch of two projects exploring romantic and sensual relationships at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.

In “Stellar,” by Anishinaabe writer-director Darlene Naponse, two people seek comfort and connection for a single night in a dive bar as they watch the outside world shatter from their windows.

The film is an adaptation of Naponse’s short story of the same name and stars Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers and Braeden Clarke in the lead roles of She and He.

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A touch between two characters creates a cosmic connection. The film has minimal dialogue and instead relies on physical contact to explore the connection between the two characters.

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Naponse says she wants to show the power of community engagement — an act that has been marred by abuses committed in the residential school system and Sixties Scoop.

The project begins with a trauma story commonly seen with Indigenous characters in film and television and instead affirms the importance of a physical connection to First Nations communities.

“It’s really about wanting to understand, celebrate and discover the beauty of loving and touching each other,” says Naponse.

The connection between the two characters provides an avenue for a new story – one that shows how communication can restore the past while providing hope for the future.

Tailfeathers, Blackfoot and Sámi from Kainai First Nation, joined the project after Naponse contacted her directly for the role of She.


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Steal the earth with the stars

The film challenges viewers to think differently about indigenous love and indigenous futurism, Tailfeathers said.

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She wanted more stories of love, closeness and healing because they were concepts that had been stripped from Indigenous Peoples for generations through colonialism, she added.

“Just think about the radical act of love and joy and what it means to feel like a native today knowing all we’ve been through. There is something fundamental about the ability to feel love, joy, and hope. It was a beautiful act of renovation,” she said.

Tamil filmmaker VT Nayani, Tamil filmmaker, said: TIFF with “This place.”

The strange love story is set in Toronto in 2011 two years after Tamil-Canadian people across the country protested the way the Sri Lankan government was treating Tamil citizens. The film follows a Tamil woman and a Mohawk and Iranian woman, as they explore family responsibilities, displacement and new-found love.


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In the film, Kawenniiohstha has just moved from Kahnawake Mohawk Territory to the city to attend school. Unbeknownst to her mother is also looking to connect with her Iranian father for the first time. She meets Malai, who is struggling with the concept of reconnecting with her alcoholic father before it’s too late while encouraging her brother to do the same. Two women form a relationship after a fateful meeting at a laundromat and a lost notebook.

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Nayani co-wrote the film with Mohawk actor Devery Jacobs, who is most recently known for his role in the FX play “The Booking Dogs,” and Iranian actor and writer Golshan Abdmoulaie.

“We’re in for a long, long season of ‘trauma drama.’ I want to have joy, hope and a feeling of being able because we deserve it,” Nayani said in an interview.

“When I look at my communities, I see love stories like that. I see gays and other people of color falling in love and having these conversations every day. This is everyday life for us.”

Through sharing stories and life experiences, the three writers find that although they come from different cultures, there are similarities in their communities.


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Nayani laid out the film’s premise nearly a decade ago when a family friend came to her and asked what it meant to protest against stolen Aboriginal land.

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That’s a question Nayani asked herself after participating in protests in Toronto in 2009 following the events in Sri Lanka.

Nayani said in an interview: “It really showed me how I lacked a relationship and could have a responsibility to the indigenous community here as someone whose family came here for a reason. a little sense of security.

The filmmaker then poses his own question, “what happens when you have an indigenous woman and a refugee’s daughter come together?” Nayani wants to discover what those conversations look like.

Tamil actor, Priya Guns plays the role of Malai. She was living abroad when she was first sent the script.

Guns says she was drawn to the film because it puts the realities of BIPOC people first and explores elements of class and exotic.

“Right off the bat, I’ve never seen anything like this,” she said in an interview.

“I feel like if I get to see this movie when I grow up, a lot of things will make sense.”

© 2022 Canadian Press

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