Yesterday afternoon a group of us went to see Indian Horse.
This is a movie that pushes the viewer to face the reality that was and is the Indian Residential School system. And pushes us to remember it is not ancient history. As one person said afterward "this was in my lifetime" -- it starts in 1959 and we push through 30 years of Saul's life.
The movie is the story of a small boy, Sau l Indian Horse. And to be honest his is really the only character in the movie that is very well developed. The others are developed only so much as they interact with Saul, though since the movie is told as Saul sharing his memories of his story that does make a deal of sense.
This is a tough movie to watch. It is disturbing to know that such violence and racism are a part of our identity as Canadians. It is one thing to know it happened, it is a whole other level of disturbing to see it enacted. But for that same reason it is a very important movie to see. Over the last decade Canada has officially been taking part in a truth and reconciliation process. But I have a strong hunch that settler-stock Canadians have yet to fully understand the truth (but want to rush to the reconciliation). If we are going to be serious about reconciliation we have to honestly name and recognize the truth of our past and our present [because racism is still a big factor in Canada].
Violent beatings, degrading treatment, inhumane conditions, belittling language. These run through the movie, these run through Saul's life. There are deaths, there is alcoholism, there is the glimmer of one teacher who seems to be a "good guy" and yet he also is part of the problem...
In fact it is hard to say there is much hope in this movie. There is a lot of reason for despair. There is a lot of reason to think reconciliation is impossible. But hope? That is hard to find.
Where is the hope for reconciliation in Canada? IT lies beyond the pain. I see on the film website that they are open to community screenings. I am going to suggest that the church host such a screening with a time for debrief and discussion afterward. The piece I was pondering was what age. Would it be appropriate for the church youth group? I think so but it would have to be carefully planned and plenty of attention paid to how the post-viewing discussion would be handled.
I think this is an important movie. I also think many people will find it too hard to watch.