Everyday Activist - Red Snow (2019)

Posted on Tuesday, March 10, 2020 at 06:00 PM

Red Snow (2019)

Movie Review by Everyday Activist X CalgaryMovies.com

Marie Clements is known for creative storytelling. Although I watched The Road Forward, a brilliant documentary musical that strings together difficult topics facing Indigenous communities, I didn’t have time to review the film in 2017 before the screening at the Marda Loop Justice Film Festival. I believe The Road Forward should be part of the Canadian school curriculum. Clements' latest film, Red Snow, is a fictional story that debuted at the Edmonton and Vancouver International Film Festivals last year. The screenplay felt like colonization in that Clements, a southerner from Vancouver, forces her story about the danger of religious zealots on the North. Rather than properly exploring the indigenous cultural aspects of Dylan’s life that enabled him to survive intergenerational trauma, the loss and abandonment of loved ones, as well as fight in Afghanistan.

Because I spend a lot of time in the Yukon, I know a bit about the Gwich’in culture, a tribe found north of the Arctic circle, mostly in Old Crow and Alaska. Despite the damaged residential schools, they still have a strong tradition of elders passing down teachings, which actress, Tantoo Cardinal, did her best to convey within the limitations of the script. As a Gwich’in, Dylan would have received news via his dreams, which Clements makes no mention of, only using flashbacks. In early 2000, when Calgary biologist Karsten Hueur and his wife Leanne went to Old Crow to document the Porcupine Caribou Herd, the elders told THEM to pay attention to their dreams.

Clements should have drawn parallels between military training and residential schools, because both are designed to systematically create homogeneity by erasing the individual. Cutting Dylan’s hair would have been a powerful image and reminder of the trauma his family endured. On his military mission, Dylan serves with other indigenous people who would have their own culture and stories to share, giving other groups a voice. When a character says something like, “It’s residential school creepy” the audience has no context.

The Afghanistan storyline also needed work. Much of the dialogue where Dylan was kept prisoner focused on religion and place, instead of powerfully revealing how people choose to deal with loss as well as the lengths people go to for survival. In the mountain scenes, random events that needed better exposition and foreshadowing were casually discussed. Clements also includes imagery that doesn’t connect well. When Dylan was offered a cigarette, I expected him to make an offering later on in the film for the lives taken.

If I have to say something good, I enjoyed the cinematography, which would be worth seeing on the big screen. Audiences loved it and if I watched this as I do action movies, I liked it too. Where it falls flat is that it could have been a universal story about love, loss and how we choose to cope across cultures and across oceans. Red Snow will be screened in Calgary soon.  

Calgary Showtimes: Red Snow >


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