Everyday Activist - Chaakapesh (CBC Gem)

Posted on Tuesday, December 22, 2020 at 08:00 PM

Chaakapesh (CBC Gem)

Movie Review by Everyday Activist X CalgaryMovies.com

Quebec does great work with arts outreach programs for immigrants and indigenous communities. Bringing a something as big as the Montreal Symphony Orchestra to rural areas can be tricky, though doable. It’s one thing to have a bunch of musicians play Bach or Mozart in Northern Quebec, but something completely different to commission a new work involving First Nations art, stories, music in various languages French, English, Cree and Inuktitut called Chaakapesh: The Trickster’s Quest. BAFTA nominated director, Roger Frappier, documents the journey from idea to opera, though the storytelling is fragmented. He jumps from talking heads to performances to rehearsals to the weather.

Chaakapesh is the story of a trickster, called upon to save his people, the Beothuks, from the slaughter initiated by the white settlers. “You’d never get away with all this in a play, but if it’s loudly and in a foreign tongue, it’s just the sort of story audiences adore in a perfect opera!” to quote Phantom of the Opera. To stop the killing, the gods decide that this is happening, because the settlers don’t know how to laugh. Chaakapesh, the trickster, is the perfect person to teach people how to laugh, but he is not the bravest. In the end everything works out with the dramatic flair.

Frappier did not spend enough time on the beauty and inclusiveness of art. One of my favorite moments was a young cellist in one of the indigenous communities training with a cellist from the orchestra to perform with them. Not a bad reference to have on a post secondary application if she chooses a musical career. While I don’t study cello, even I knew she was excellent. I didn’t need her tutor to tell me that she earned her spot. Another irritating moment was the pretentious comment of a famous violin touring the North, though I enjoyed watching the excitement of the little kids conducting and immersed in the presence of the symphony including their rehearsals.

The message of the collaboration to write the opera meant letting go of oppressor and victim roles. Artists from many disciplines created a space where everyone is equal to provide an opportunity for healing and understanding for both the performers and the audience. With such a unique project, I’m glad a film was made, but I wish Frappier had a more cohesive storyline to give the film more exposure. Using art to discuss painful issues, breaks down barriers and we need to see more examples of successful projects.

Chaakapesh is available on CBC Gem, along with many other great documentaries that I promise to review before I go back to school. Samuel L Jackson’s series Enslaved was excellent. Between episodes of Schitt’s Creek and Kim’s Convenience, I watched a lot of short documentaries. Longer documentaries automatically started playing, while I was baking cookies for Christmas. Have a safe and happy holiday!

Calgary Showtimes: Chaakapesh >


NOTE: The showtimes listed on CalgaryMovies.com come directly from the theatres' announced schedules, which are distributed to us on a weekly basis. All showtimes are subject to change without notice or recourse to CalgaryMovies.com.