Empire of Dirt


90 minutes – Drama
Festival release date: September 6, 2013 (TIFF)
Release date: November 22, 2013
Canadian distributor: Mongrel Media

This low-budget feature about First Nations families tells the story of three generations in a family of native women dealing with the fallout from decisions made by themselves and others. Lena Mahikan (Cara Gee) grew up in the cycle of abuse. Her father, a residential school survivor, was an alcoholic until he killed himself when Lena was 10. Her mother, only 14 years her senior, turned to the slots and was consumed. By the time Lena was 15, she was pregnant and, before giving birth, was kicked to the curb by her mom. For 13 years Lena has been living, poverty stricken in Toronto, struggling to make ends meet, being chased by her own demons. The cycle continues and Lena is now watching helplessly as her own daughter, Peeka (Shay Eyre, pictured above with Shannon Kook-Chun) spirals out of control, landing herself in the ER following a drug overdose. As her final attempt at survival, Lena decides to return home and face her own mother and a past she’s tried desperately to escape. Empire of Dirt tells the story of three generations of Mahikan family women who are given a second chance to be family and put an end to the painful legacy that has plagued them. Empire of Dirt was shot over 15 days in October of 2012 in Keswick, Ontario as well as in downtown Toronto’s Kensington Market area.

Empire of Dirt had its premiere at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.

Watch Jennifer Podemski talk about the making of Empire of Dirt.
Watch Cara Geee talk about the making of Empire of Dirt.



Jennifer Podemski

Executive Producer:

Avi Federgreen


Heather K. Dahlstrom
Geoff Ewart

Line Producer:

Colin Brunton


Peter Stebbings


Shannon Masters


David Greeme


Jorge Weisz


Justin Peroff

Cast: Roles:

Cara Gee
Shay Eyre
Jennifer Podemski
Luke Kirby
Jordan Prentice
Michael Cram
Sarah Podemski
Lawrence Bayne
Kate Corbett
Tonya Lee Williams
Shannon Kook-Chun
Barbara Gordon
Sarah Manninen
Doug Bedard
Raoul Bhaneja
Jaiden Mitchell
Jean Yoon
Joris Jarsky
Tony Nappo

Lena Mahikan
Peeka Mahikan
Minnie Mahikan
Russell Carter
Warren Fensky
Doc Baker
Uncle Hank (Minnie’s Brother)
Mrs. Armstrong
Doctor Gaffney
Little Wing