Saturday, November 1, 2014

imagineNATIVE Film Festival Film Review - My Legacy

Helen Haig-Brown opens My Legacy with a series of sort questions to her family members on what makes her such a hard person to date as she works the camera. The responses from her sister and Uncles are quizzical looks wondering if they have permission to speak freely followed by half smiles and comments by her family that she has never been willing to really let anyone in and suffers from a lack of trust.

Haig-Brown's narration then turns to her research on loving relationships which lead her to the concluding that the key relationship in forming your future relationships is the one you have with your own mother.  Next Haig-Brown turns the camera on her mother as the family hovers around the outdoor fish cleaning table and asked her about her relationships with Dad, her sister and her experiences growing up.

As the interview continues in different settings Helen's mother reveals that she was very angry most of the time when she was younger and unfortunately often took it out on Helen either by lashing out at her or withdrawing and ignoring her. Digging deeper into the root cause of her anger goes back to her placement in residential schools a federal government program where Native youth between the ages of 7 to 15 were taken away from their land to outside boarding schools and if they had siblings in the same age range they were not allowed to interact with them.  The purpose of the plan as admitted by its founder Duncan Campbell Scott was to get rid of the Indian problem by having them completely assimilate in one generation without any special rights or privilege. At the schools there were rapes, physical and emotional abuse and having gone through that affected her outlook on the world and deeply hurt her ability to trust.

Director Haig-Brown brings the viewer into her families Tsihgot'in  Northern B.C. Williams Lake community. Starting with the shot of the loon on the open lake then progressing to the outdoor fish prep station and on to the horse training circles. Haig-Brown also shoots a lot at the community rink. There are shots of her playing, full stands of community members watching games and interview with other Tsihgot'in band members on their relationship history and their definitions of love emanating from the rink or defacto community centre.

Perhaps the best instant of dialogue between mother and daughter is the quietest.  They each take turns braiding the other's hair as the scene is shot from behind using the reflections from a large mirror. It is both a muted and powerful as each lay out their true feelings about their relationship speaking not only to each other's flaws but acknowledging their own.

My Legacy is a raw, open, first person account of a mother daughter relationship. It narrows in on key events that played a large point in building thier personalities with director Haig-Brown opening herself up entirely for the project. The piece also give the viewer a sense of community and life in the B.C. hinterland. It is a film that I can recommend.

*** 1/2  Out of 4

My Legacy | Helen Haig-Brown | Canada | 2014 | 60 Minutes.

Tags: Tsihqot'in, Williams Lake, Mother -Daughter, Residential Schools, British Columbia, Horses, Hockey.

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