Many elements are involved in creating and making a film, including a storyline, a point of view, the actors, director, editor, cinematographer, music and score, et cetera. The foundation for almost all movies is the story/script and the point of view brought forward by the director.
Bootlegger is like a flowing river with many tributaries. Each tributary is a substory that supports the main story. This film touched on many important themes, however, the filmmakers did not focus in on one point of view, thereby making it difficult to understand what the movie was about.
Don’t get me wrong, this movie is worth watching and will stimulate your thoughts concerning Canada, its relations with First Nations and life on a small Algonquin reservation.
The lead is a young college student named Mani, played by Devery Jacobs, who is writing a thesis on her nation and some of the issues her people are dealing with: alcoholism, self-government, referendums or not, corruption and payoffs, and their oppressed past with regard to self-determination, voting and the Indian Act. As part of her research she returns to her reservation and is forced to deal with the town’s challenges with alcoholism, its youth, and a past accident resulting in the death of her best friend.
The people in the town are divided about what to do with alcohol. There are elders who are against any alcohol on the reservation and others who favour alcohol but want to control the import and distribution of it. The spark plug living in the town is a white settler, Laura, played by Pascale Bussières, who is the bootlegger bringing alcohol in.
Mani comes back to her reservation and challenges the status quo. She walks into the community hall and we see issues being argued that appear like they have always been there, and that there is no resolution to the problems.
Self-determination in all issues is of paramount importance, however, can the members of the nation manage it? They know their past and the atrocities brought about by the Government of Canada and there is this underlying anger and frustration facing the truth and questioning the way forward.
There is a stark reality to this movie that is compelling to watch. Life on the reservation appears hard with coldness, wild dogs, lack of respected authority and an angered youth. Each theme is important and compelling to watch, but I wanted the filmmakers to scratch deeper into some of these storylines so that I, as the viewer, could gather a better understanding.
This film is worthwhile even if it is light in depth of the storytelling. The themes raised are important to all Canadians and must be looked at by all of us. For these reasons I would give this film two out five tugboats.
Bootlegger is part of the Powell River Film Festival and is showing at the Patricia Theatre on October 9 at 1:30 pm. For more information, go to prfilmfestival.ca/prffviff.
Stephen J. Miller is a producer and creative writer in feature films and television, and past owner of repertoire movie theatres.