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45. Kuessipan; movie review

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Title : 45. Kuessipan; movie review
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Cert TBA
117 mins
BBFC advice: TBA

Between 1492 when Columbus arrived and 1600, 90% of the indigenous populations in the Americas had died. 
That means about 55 million people perished because of violence and never-before-seen diseases such as smallpox, measles, and influenza.
I usually reserve such facts for my 'did you know?' section but this one seemed pertinent enough to have top billing in my review of Myriam Verreault's enthralling Kuessipan.
Simply because this film shows that the native Canadians and Americans are, thankfully, still around and contributing significantly to society today.
I had no idea that there are Innu communities in Quebec and Kuessipan is set in one.
Its focus is two teenage best friends - Mikuan (Sharon Ishpatao Fontaine), who come from a loving family and Shaniss (Yamie Grégoire) who is struggling in the wake of a tragic childhood.
As children, they promised each other to stick together no matter what but, as they’re about to turn 17, their friendship is shaken when Mikuan falls for a white boy (Étienne Galloy) and dreams of leaving their reserve.
Kuessipan is a curiosity because much of the rowing and making up between the girls is typical of teenagers across the world.
But the background to their too-ings and fro-ings is very specific to Innu life.
Mikuan has similar feelings to many teenagers about bettering herself but has the complication of looking beyond a community which needs intelligent young people to fight its future battles.
She is faced with a deep question over whether she should show loyalty to herself, her family or her race?
She looks empathetically at Shaniss going down a well-trodden path of teenage pregnancy and violent unemployed boyfriend but wants to go her own way.
Kuessipan introduces traditions which probably aren't even known in Canada beyond the reserves where the Innu live.
It is enlightening and engaging and includes two praiseworthy central performances.
It is one of the best features of My French Film Festival which I have enjoyed this month.

Reasons to watch: Convincing and enlightening
Reasons to avoid: Relatively little action 

Laughs: None
Jumps: None 
Vomit: Yes
Nudity: None
Overall rating: 7.5/10

Did you know? 
There are 30 reserves in Quebec, held by 25 First Nations. In addition, there are 15 Inuit, 9 Cree and one Naskapi community whose lands fall under the jurisdiction of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement and the Northeastern Quebec Agreement. As of 2018, there were 89,724 registered Indians in Quebec, 65 per cent of whom live on a reserve.

The final word. Writer, Naomi Fontaine: "The book is not a story per se. It's a collection of voices. When I wrote Kuessipan, I had a very clear intention: to show faces, places and moments lived in my community."

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