Beans – A Review
by Lois Siegel
(August 16, 2021 – Ottawa, ON) Mohawk Film director Tracey Deer has created an amazing film about the armed stand-off between Mohawks and the Canadian army in Quebec—the Oka Crisis—in 1990, and what it was like to be an indigenous teenage girl in Canada then. For those close to the event, it was a difficult and terrifying time. For others, this film explains all the nuances and causes for the confrontation
The film focuses on 12-year-old “Beans,” a Mohawk girl during the 78-day armed incident involving Quebec/Canadian governments and the Mohawks who were peacefully protesting a golf course expansion that would defile their burial ground. Tension increased between their communities.
The occurrence centers on the girls. Beans, her mother and sister decided to take a road trip to Oka during the protests… we hear the music: “I’ve got the power.” On the golf course, they find graves and golf balls. Then there are gun shots.
The police have raided the area to remove protesters – not unlike the clashes between “Cowboys and Indians.” There is a standoff. Vehicles are searched as the police look for weapons. The Mercier Bridge, connecting the island of Montreal with the Mohawk reserve of Kahnawake and the suburb of Chateauguay, is blocked. The girls help by putting boxes in the road where they live. They are kids having fun. But then barbed wired is installed. No delivery trucks for food will be allowed to enter Mohawk land. No more hot dogs. The girls pretend oatmeal is food with sparkles.
When the Mohawks try to leave their land to get groceries, a man spits at them. Then 400 people demonstrate to prevent the Indians from leaving the reserve. They say, “Who is protecting the rights of the white people.”
Bean’s friend tells her she must toughen up. The friend hits her with a stick. To shield her identity, Beans practices changing her name: My name is Patricia. I like to eat Popcorn.
Beans enters a white school where she faces harassment. More people demonstrate and tell Premier Robert Bourassa how to solve problems with Chateauguay. They cut electricity and water to the Mohawks. Premier Bourassa’s solution – He calls in the Canadian Army.
There is numerous stock footage of these events that gives a true feeling of what is happening. Women and children are forced to leave to stay safe. They drive across the Mercier bridge with lots of cars honking…It takes hours. People throw rocks at the cars, break windows, the police do nothing.
Beans eventually re-enters an all-white class at school. This time the situation is different. She stands up for who she is.
The film is beautifully shot. The acting is excellent. Beans received many awards, most notably, The Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television – The Canadian Screen Awards: Anne-Marie Gelinas Best Picture Award.
Fantasia festival – Audience Award for Best Canadian Film.
Tracey Deer: John Dunning Best First Feature Film.
Beans was developed with the help of The Harold Greenberg Fund.
Also see: A trailer, cast and crew for Beans.
Lois Siegel is a photographer, filmmaker, educator, musician and agent who also reviewed films for Ottawa’s The Glebe Report for more than 17 years.