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Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance

Film Review by Dean Duncan May 21, 2015

As with You Are On Indian Land, there are times when these native Americans (native Canadians, actually) really play to the camera, strategically using it in order to make their case and further their ends. That’s not always the case, but because of this partial calculation there are times in Kanehsatake… where the line between documentation and contrivance becomes quite blurred. They can look self-conscious, self-serving, even plain dumb.  This means, in part, that they are human beings in the midst of their being absolutely right.  But they’re also the disadvantaged, grabbing hold of any little limb in the water.  The result is that they bug you, but you have to give it to them.  Mind you, in addition to putting on a show they also misbehave.  So do the Quebecois/Canadians.  Students divide, and only notice that misbehaviour.  The thing is, there’s calmness too—the whole historical review—and in the end the film really benefits from its considerable range, or if you prefer its scattershot nature. The fact is that apart from the municipality and those patently abusive arrests—see, they were right to play to the camera, because of the way that camera then, simultaneously captures a lot of people end up looking pretty good.  Also, the assembly of material, from all those different days, and locations, and camera people, is pretty monumental.  And finally, thrillingly, power paid for the oppressed people’s super-spirited criticism of that power.