Indian Horse, winner of Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary and Edmonton International Film Festivals for best feature film, best Canadian film and People’s Choice Awards is showing June 25 at Vernon Towne Cinema by Okanagan Screen Arts Society.
Based on the novel by Richard Wagamese, who is also well known for writing North of 60, this film follows the life of a Canadian First Nations boy from northern Ontario, Saul Indian Horse, played at different stages in his life by Sladen Peltier, Forrest Goodluck and Ajuawak Kapashesit.
In the late 1950s, seven-year-old Saul is traumatically separated from his family and forced to attend one of Canada’s notorious Catholic residential schools. There he must survive inhumane treatment, abuse, and racism as he is forced to give up his language, culture and even his name.
To mentally escape this oppressive and dreary environment, he teaches himself to play hockey and he soon discovers that he has a natural ability and exceptional skill for the sport. Through hockey he finds salvation and the game eventually allows him to leave the residential school where he finds some success in the minor hockey leagues and eventually the pros. However, he cannot escape his difficult past and he must find his own path as he battles stereotypes and alcoholism as he tries to come to terms with the ghosts that haunt him.
This is a personal story that honestly addresses some of the worst periods in Canadian history. There are conflicting values which involve generations of indigenous families practising traditional spirituality while the younger adult generation, who have been brainwashed in the residential schools, insist that Christianity is the only acceptable belief system.
There are also conflicting approaches in the residential school where a reforming priest believes in a compassionate approach to the children’s assimilation versus a nun whose approach uses any means necessary to “Christianize” the children.
Indian Horse screens at 5:15 and 7:45 p.m. A pre-show intro by resident filmmaker Matt McDowell and live music before the early show by Les Copeland are also on offer. Advance tickets are available at the Bean Scene or Towne Cinema box office.