Hochelaga, Land of souls (Hochelaga, Terre des âmes)

Quebec writer-director François Girard’s Hochelaga, Land of souls is a spectacular film about Montréal’s history. The story starts in modern-day during a football game at Percival Molson stadium (located at the feet of Mount Royal), where a sinkhole opens in the middle of the field. It’s up to Mohawk archaeology student Baptiste (popular Algonquin rapper Samian) to start the archaeological dig. Six years later, Baptiste’s findings are unveiled during his doctoral thesis presentation. With each new discoveries, Baptiste tells the story of how it was found, its provenance and its meaning, and Girard (Thirty two short films about Glenn Gould, The red violin) flashbacks to a related historical event. A piece of metal from a stove goes back to an outbreak of typhus fever that killed 150 people in 1687, among them French trapper Étienne Maltais (Emmanuel Schwartz). During the Lower Canada patriot revolt of 1837, two men fleeing British soldiers seek refuge with supporter Lady Sarah Walker (Siân Phillips). But she’s unable to protect them from Captain Philip Thomas (Law & order‘s Linus Roache). But Baptiste greatest discovery is a crucifix, proof of a 1535 meeting between Jacques Cartier (French actor Vincent Perez) and Chief Tennawake (Wahiakeron Gilbert) at the Hochelaga Iroquois village. The whole thing could be too much, too big and too much of a history class. (and for some, maybe it is), but I found the experience profoundly moving. There are three moments towards the end that makes it gel: as Baptiste finds the crucifix, the figures from the past are standing up from the seats in the stadium, looking at him. Then later as the names of the ancestors are called out (Maltais, Thomas, Tennawake, Lacroix, Walker), their modern-day descendants are revealed. We are all linked together. Nicolas Bolduc’s award-winning cinematography and Terry and Gyan Riley’s score, and the importance given to First nations makes Hochelaga, Land of souls a must.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

Hochelaga, Land of souls (Hochelaga, Terre des âmes)

 

Directed by:
François Girard

Screenplay by:
François Girard

Starring:
Samian
Vincent Perez
Gilles Renaud
Raoul Trujillo
Wahiakeron Gilbert
Emmanuel Schwartz
Tanaya Beatty
David La Haye
Sébastien Ricard
Siân Phillips
Linus Roache
Naïade Aoun
Tony Nardi
Karelle Tremblay
Paul Doucet

100 min.

Rated 14A

In French, Mohawk, Algonquin and English with English subtitles.

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Rumble: The Indians who rocked the world

Here’s a story that’s never been told. Rumble: The Indians who rocked the world is a new exciting documentary about the influence of Native Americans and Canadians in pop music. The film gets his tittle from Rumble, an 1958 rock instrumental piece by Link Wray & his Ray men. Rumble is one of the only instrumentals to be banned from radios. The sound was so raw for the period, with distortions, feedback and pulsating guitar playing, that some radio stations in New York and Boston were afraid that it might incite violence. Robbie Robertson, from The band, was born and raised in Toronto on the Six Nations Reservation. Like other rock guitar players, he was greatly influenced by Link Wray. Throughout the film we hear of other musicians and singers from Native descent. Charley Patton, an early recording artist, plays the guitar by hitting on it like a drum. Historians points out that people from the Reserves were not allowed to have drums, a very important outlet of their creativity as well as an instrument of communication. So Patton, and others, learned to play guitar. Mildred Bailey, a blues/jazz singer from the 30s and 40s, has been influential for singers like Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, who is interviewed for this film. African-American legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix is part Cherokee. And it was wonderful to see Canadian musician-songwriter-singer Buffy Sainte-Marie again. Her voice is as powerful and vibrant today as it has always been. The history lessons are important of course. But in Rumble: The Indians who rocked the world the music is taking the front row. It is time that we pay attention, listen and learn.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

Rumble: The Indians who rocked the world

 

Directed by:
Catherine Bainbridge
Alfonso Maiorana

90 min.

Maliglutit (Searchers)

In John Ford’s 1956 classic western The searchers, John Wayne plays a Civil war veteran trying to find his niece who was abducted by Comanche Indians. In Zacharias Kunuk and Natar Ungalaaq’s Maliglutit, the action has shifted from 1868 to 1913 in the Northern Canadian territory now known as Nunavut. It was filmed near the small community of Igloolik, with the cast of non-professional actors having to work in -48 °C, many of them suffering from frostbite as a result. The story starts in Kuanana’s igloo. Kuanana (Benjamin Kunuk) has invited Aulla (Jonah Qunaq) and his small band of thugs to his home. But Aulla is drunk and shamelessly flirts with Kuanana’s wife, Ailla (Jocelyne Immaroitok) and his daughter, Tagaq (Karen Ivalu). So he is asked to leave. The next day, while Kuanana and his oldest son are away from home, Aulla comes back to abduct the two women to use them for their sexual pleasures. Upon coming back, Kuanana finds that the rest of the family have been killed. He and his son go on a search to find the killers, avenge the dead and bring back the abducted women. Maliglutit is the latest of a series of films in Inuktitut produced by First Nation artists in Nunavut. The first film directed in 2001 by Zacharias Kunuk was Atanarjuat: The fast runner . Despite a slow beginning and an unsurprising outcome, Maliglutit is very exciting to watch. Zacharias Kunuk was a fan of John Wayne and this film is an homage of sorts to westerns. It is spectacularly shot by cinematographer Jonathan Frantz. An inspired score by Tanya Tagaq and Chris Crilly uses throat singing, electric guitars and an harmonica. The theme is definitely John Ford, but the music is more Ennio Morricone than Max Steiner.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Maliglutit (Searchers)

 

Directed by:
Zacharias Kunuk
Natar Ungalaaq

Screenplay by:
Norman Cohn
Zacharias Kunuk
Inspired by John Ford’s film The searchers

Starring:
Benjamin Kunuk
Karen Ivalu
Jonah Qunaq
Joey Sarpinek
Jocelyne Immaroitok
Joseph Uttak

95 min.

Rated 14A

In Inuktitut with English subtitles.