The Toronto International Film Festival 2020 has come and gone, with titles such as “Nomadland,” “Ammonite” and “One Night in Miami” stealing the headlines. But there’s no need to keep talking about those awards season hopefuls. Instead, I want to dedicate this article to three very important movies made by underrepresented filmmakers that talked about much-needed inclusion.
These films have not found distribution yet, but it will be very important to keep them in mind because their messages need to be heard.
Director: Tracey Deer
With the threat of a golf course being built over their lands, two Indigenous Mohawk communities had to fight against the city of Quebec and the intolerance of its white citizens in 1990. This was known as the Crisis of Oka, and it’s the backdrop for the semi-autobiographical feature debut of Tracey Deer, titled “Beans.”
“Anne with an E’”s Kiawentiio has a breakout performance as Tekehentahkwa (nicknamed Beans), a sweet 12-year-old girl whose quiet life and high school dreams are interrupted by the Oka Crisis. Beans is soon overwhelmed by the sociopolitical situation, puberty, the need to socialize with people her age and racist threats.
This is a coming-of-age brimming with authenticity that teaches us about a very important Indigenous movement while reminding us that love is the best tool to fight against hate. “Beans” was the second front-runner of the TIFF 2020 People’s Choice Award, which is a testimony to the interest there is around these stories. We need inclusivity, and we need voices like Tracey Deer’s.
Director: João Paulo Miranda Maria
Brazil is going through some rough times, and its current wave of cinema is a reflection of that. João Paulo Miranda Maria’s “Memory House” is the latest Brazilian title trying to raise awareness on the increasingly common racial problems hurting the country.
Legendary Brazilian actor Antonio Pitanga is Cristovam, an Indigenous Black worker from the North of Brazil who, due to work and monetary concerns, is forced to emigrate to a white town in the South. Surrounded by nothing but white faces, Cristovem quickly starts to feel the oppression of this dehumanized place.
After a heartbreaking and infirurating incident involving his dog and some disgusting kids, Cristovam discovers an old house containing old objects and attires that help him rediscover and connect with his Indigenous roots. This allows Cristovam to start a physical and spiritual metamorphosis.
This is a very tough watch, especially if you are an animal lover, but make no mistake: “Memory House” is an urgent film that tries to represent the multigenerational pain felt by Indigenous people. Miranda creates an isolating and folkloric experience designed to make you think about racism and the way you treat Mother Earth.
“No Ordinary Man”
Co-directors: Aisling Chin-Yee and Chase Joynt
Through interviews with trans performers, authors and activists, this documentary explores the importance and influence of Billy Tipton, a jazz musician famous during the ‘40s and ‘50s who was born a woman but managed to live his life as a man without anyone noticing. In fact, it wasn’t until his death that paramedics discovered this and revealed it to his son.
“No Ordinary Man” brilliantly links the life of Tipton with the modern transmasculine experience and shines a light on urgent topics such as transphobia in media, the relationship between gender and identity and the emotional problems faced by trans people. I learned a lot thanks to this extraordinary film that I’m sure will inspire many people around the world.
Ricardo is a Mexico City based bilingual writer, digital animation graduate and awards season nerd. He also enjoys pro wrestling, is a Paddington fan and is the founder of the film website “La Estatuilla.”