In our age there is no such thing as "keeping out of politics." All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.- George Orwell. January 1941
Not much, it seems, has changed, and ignorance is no longer bliss.
Politics, mostly shady, are creeping into all aspects of our lives—our bedrooms, our dinner tables and even our gas tanks. Alberta and British Columbia are on the cusp of some kind of Oil War (because no one took the wine embargo all that seriously) and the powers that be continue to allow foreign-owned fish farms to spread disease and decimate Canada's wild salmon population.
Social media can win elections (even for another country) and someone found a way to match an app designed to help you create fake porn with a new A.I. bot to craft incredibly convincing fake news, interviews, or video clips of pretty much anyone saying anything. Democracy has been circling the drain ever since.
But humanity is far from flushed. And there's new hope on the silver screens this week. The Whistler Village 8 is opening Indian Horse, a Canadian-made film about Saul Indian Horse, a First Nations boy pulled from his parents and community in 1959 and thrust into the clutches of one of Canada's nefarious Catholic Residential Schools.
Amid a system built on horrific physical, emotional and cultural abuse (all of it sanctioned by the Canadian government) Saul finds a sanctuary, and a future, in the same place many more fortunate Canadians did: out on the ice with a hockey stick in hand. Unfortunately, the more successful he becomes at "Canada's Game," the more he realizes what a farcical concept "assimilation" is in a nation still riddled with racism.
Adapted from the semi-autobiographical book by the late Ojibwe author Richard Wagamese, the Indian Horse film delivers a narrative that needs to be told right now, even if the cinematic storytelling never quite reaches the same levels of personal connection as its source material.
Director Stephen Campanelli and writer Dennis Foon (both white) certainly do their best to dish up a story rich and nuanced enough to fill a miniseries, but one has to wonder what this film would have looked like given more space to breathe and filmmakers more naturally attuned to the aural story telling traditions of Wagamese's culture.
But even so, this is an important, must-see film and Indian Horse won the People's Choice Awards at the Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton International Film Festivals.
After seeing the final cut, Hollywood's last living cowboy legend, Clint Eastwood, even signed on as an executive producer in order to help Indian Horse get better distribution and hit more people. And while it's very promising to see a guy who literally made his film career shooting at Indians stepping up to help with reconciliation efforts, other entities have (not surprisingly) opted out.
The current Pope refused to officially apologize for the horrific abuses of human rights that occurred in those Catholic Residential Schools (it was essentially cultural genocide with a side order of slavery and pedophilia). So yeah, screw that guy.
And don't think the Catholics were the only ones playing foul—they were just the worst offenders and the Anglicans, the United Church and even the Presbyterians all ran schools under the banner of "missionary work."
That these churches are still running children's camps today gives one pause to wonder, isn't that kind of like letting Pennywise the Clown from It run an afterschool care program? But it'll be OK because he has God on his side now, trust us.
Also opening this week, thank crap, Super Troopers 2 also has a Canadian slant, albeit a much lighter one. The boys from US Highway Patrol are forced to come to Quebec.
Amidst a barrage of bad accents, Canadian clichés and unconventional police work, this one never quite hits the comedic bar set by its predecessor, but it will have to do. And if you think about it in the broader context of American police officers doing a shitty job and screwing around... well there's those politics again, squeezing into places we don't really need them. Orwell was right; we're screwed.