Spotlight on Tracey Deer
When Tracey Deer was growing up in Kahnawake, an angry mob threw rocks at her and her family during the 1990 Oka Crisis. Police did nothing, she recalls.
“What that said to me is that I was worthless. If these adults were able to do that to us and the police said it was okay, the only thing my 12-year-old mind could come up with was, ‘There’s something wrong with me, I’m worthless,’” recalls the Mohawk filmmaker.
The “devastating” moment is recreated in a scene in her debut feature Beans, which premiered at TIFF, had a successful national theatrical run and won many awards, including Best Motion Picture at the Canadian Screen Awards.
The CMF-funded Beans “is about a little girl coming of age in this very dark, watershed moment in Canadian history, and realizing what it means to be an Indigenous person in this country.” She confesses that, while it was scary to “expose the insides of what makes me tick and some of my biggest hurts,” putting the film into the world was also exhilarating, empowering and healing.
“That little girl needed to be seen, heard and understood. Because if that existed, I would like to think the Oka Crisis would not have played out as it did. Canadians would not have allowed that to happen. Those in power would not have sent tanks to point at my home and my family.”
In everything she creates, including the renowned series Mohawk Girls that she created with Cynthia Knight, Tracey seeks to build bridges with the larger population. “It’s so important that our world becomes safer and more welcoming for Indigenous people, for Indigenous kids. I want people to see us, hear us and understand us. I want Canadians to care and act so things get better.”
“I want them to feel empowered to make a difference and go out into the world seeking to make that difference. This film is a call to action so these types of events stop happening, and our Indigenous kids are able to dream and believe anything is possible for them.”