"...a visceral reflection on how cycles of violence
rob children of their innocence."
- Emily Austin
Beans is a deeply moving coming-of-age film that chronicles the events of the Oka Crisis in Quebec during the summer of 1990 from the perspective of a 12-year-old Mohawk girl. Inspired by her own experiences as a child during the conflict, writer/director Tracey Deer’s debut feature follows the title character Tekahentahkhwa (or Beans), a bright girl and promising student, navigating adolescence, peer pressure and her first experiences with discrimination and racial violence.
What Beans does so beautifully is allow the events of the crisis, which are slightly beyond our young protagonist’s full understanding or interest, to unfold through her eyes. Instead of providing exposition through dialogue, Deer leverages her documentary background, blending reenactments with archival footage, to ground the film in real world events, while still allowing Beans’ story to take the main focus. The cast is all phenomenal, particularly Kiawenti:io Tarbell in the lead role and Rainbow Dickerson, one of this year’s TIFF rising stars, who gives a heartrending performance as her mother Lily. It’s captivating to watch Beans take cues from her mother - sometimes self-consciously, sometimes unconsciously - and see the great pains that Lily takes to set the best possible example under increasingly strained circumstances.
While the Oka Crisis has been extensively covered through articles, books and documentaries, Beans is the first narrative film depiction of this historic land dispute. Now, almost exactly 30 years after the resolution of the dispute and in the midst of widespread protests for racial, economic and environmental justice, the film feels beyond timely, but vital, especially as a visceral reflection on how cycles of violence rob children of their innocence. The film premiered as one of the 50 official selections at this year’s 45th annual Toronto International Film Festival and is expected to have a wider release through Mongrel Media in the Spring of 2021. We highly recommend you check it out when you get the chance.