Even as queer cinema continues to keep evolving it is still something of a surprise to discover yet another new barrier has been broken with the first movie from an unexpected provenance. Writer/director Adam Garnet Jones has done just that by setting and actually making his feature film, a very tender coming-of-age drama, in a First Nation reservation in the North of Canada where he also hails from, with an entire cast of indigenous locals.
His story centers around Shane (a very talentedAndrew Martin) a bright teenager who wants to seize the opportunity to go to study in Toronto, and escape the confines of living on the reservation, but there are several factors holding him back. Destiny (Morteesha Chickekoo-Bannon) his younger sister committed suicide just six weeks ago, and his mother is so grief stricken that she refuses to leave the girl’s bedroom, let alone the house. Shane wants to keep Tara his girlfriend happy without having to commit to having sex with her, as he really only wants to do that with David his boyfriend(Harley Legarde-Beacham) who is the closeted grandson of a tribal leader. There is also the problem of money too, as the cash left to him by his father when he died was meant to pay his college tuition, but his mother desperately needs to replace the leaky roof of their family home.
Shane puts enormous pressure on himself with his desire to try and keep everyone happy, especially in this very remote depressed region where no-body seems to have much good going for them. A community social worker insists that all the young people of the village meet regularly to discuss Destiny’s death as it seems that her suicide is not a rare occurrence.
Shane’s struggle with his own sexuality is also because these native people do not always look too kindly on what people they call ‘two spirited’ which is essentially how they describe those who have both a masculine side and a feminine side. Shane needs to persuade not just himself, but also David, that they both need to come clean and accept the fact that they are gay. Before he can reach this part, he will make some bad calls of judgement and then be left trying to extract himself out of the messes that he has created.
This is a very compelling resolute tale that sheds a light on a community that we rarely see as the setting for a ‘gay drama’ , and what is equally refreshing it is devoid of any of the usual queer stereotypes. Finding your own path as a young person in this tough environment is far from easy, and adding confusions about sexuality to the mix, certainly doesn’t help.
Garnet Jones’s authentic and completely fascinating movie is an impressive achievement, and although it is very much a First Nation story, it is however one that will resound with teens coming-of-age everywhere.