New feature film documents the story of coming of age during the Oka Crisis

The Oka Crisis might be 31 years in the past, but a new feature film gives the events the immediacy of someone who was there. 

'Beans' was re-enacted and filmed in the communities where the armed stand-off took place in. The film was made by Mohawk filmmaker Tracey Deer, who was 12-years-old when it happened.

Deer, whose name is Tekehentahkhwa was given the nickname Beans during adolescence. She said that time in her life was “Completely devastating, a marker for me. Everything I do stems from that summer."

Pulled from her nightmares, the backbone of the film are Tracey’s memories of living through the 1990 stand-off between the Quebec and Canadian governments and two Mohawk communities. Tracey remembers driving in the car with her mom and sister while people pelted the vehicle with rocks.

“I had my innocence stolen from me that day. my sense of safety, my sense of self-worth. I learned to hate that day. I began holding so much rage inside, as a 12-year-old turned inward," she said. “It was a dark adolescence. I was suicidal at 15 and am so grateful to get out of that.”

Part of that emotion also fuels her mission as a filmmaker.

“I wanted to share what it was like to live through such a violent, racially-charged travesty that this country put upon my people."

It wasn't the only travesty, as unmarked childrens graves have recently been uncovered on the sites of former Canadian residential schools. Those headlines are shocking for Tracey, but not surprising.

“Our survivors have been talking about it for decades. There's anger about it and the surprise that so many Canadians have... I am thrilled that people are waking up, but we've been talking about this, Indigenous people have been making films and writing books for decades about this.”

After having won many prestigious awards at international film festivals, 'Beans' gets a wider release in Quebec cinemas and online on July 2.

But how to mark Canada Day on July 1? 

“I don't feel it's a time for celebration, I think it's a time for reflection," said Deer. "I think that's what Canada Day this year should be about. I don't think there should be parties, I don't think there should be fireworks. There is grieving and pain in our communities right now, and do you celebrate amidst all of that pain?"

She adds that Canada is at a crossroads and can makes changes now, so that a film made in 30 years about this time would have a more positive ending.

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