Directed by Sasha Nakhai & Rich Williamson
An artfully made, emotionally resonant crowdpleaser, made on a shoestring budget over a year that was interrupted by the pandemic, Shasha Nakhai and Rich Williamson’s feature debut Scarborough follows three low-income families whose children attend a morning reading program in the diverse Galloway neighbourhood. Grounded in Catherine Hernandez’s powerful adaptation of her award-winning novel and the director’s doc-filmmaking talents, Scarborough gently but steadily draws the viewer deeply into the community with riveting, cinematic, conversation-starting storytelling.
— Jennie Punter
Directed by Tracey Deer
Director and co-writer Tracey Deer plumbs her own history in Beans, an exceptional film that reframes the so-called Oka Crisis of 1990 through the eyes of its fictional protagonist, a 12-year-old Mohawk girl (played by Kiawentiio) known as Beans. She’s already struggling with typical pre-teen angst, but her life is irrevocably changed when she’s thrust into the Kanesatake Resistance, as her entire community comes together to defend the land, and confronts anti-Indigenous racism head on.
— Kelly Boutsalis
Directed by Danis Goulet
Danis Goulet’s first feature takes place about a quarter-century in the future, in a Canada under military occupation from a nation identified only as “the southern state.” But her story of Indigenous people pulling their shattered culture back together and working to save their children from re-education schools is entirely of the moment – and maybe even more so than it was when Goulet shot the film in 2019. Anchored by Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers’ resilience as reluctant hero Niska and Brooklyn Letexier-Hart’s delicacy as Waseese as the daughter she’s desperate to rescue, this was one of the year’s best films, Canadian or otherwise.
— Norman Wilner