Ever since the first Europeans set foot on North American soil there have been tensions between the colonisers and the indigenous peoples. While disputes no longer (usually) end in bloodshed, there are still regular conflicts over land. Especially in Canada. Back in 1990, the Oka Crisis, as it has come to be known, threatened to bring two groups to blows over the proposed extension of a golf course on sacred burial grounds. This dispute provides the backdrop to Beans.
Tekehentahkhwa (Kiawentiio) is a Mohawk teenager who goes by the nickname of ‘Beans’. She’s very protective of her little sister Ruby (Violah Beauvais) who she plays with on the Mohawk reserve of Kahnawà:ke, Quebec, where they live. Her mum Lily (Rainbow Dickerson) wants her to move away and get a good education while her dad Kania’tariio (Joel Montgrand) wants her to stay and toughen up. Stuck in the middle, Beans’ future is put on hold when a protest against a proposed development turns ugly.
Beans is a really clever coming-of-age drama which tackles questions around identity and racism through one girl’s experiences during a turbulent period. It works so well thanks to a brilliant central performance from Kiawentiio, who seamlessly and believably traverses the line between childhood and adulthood. Tracey Deer uses one family’s story as a microcosm of a much wider struggle. Beans is a striking debut feature and one which promises much for both star and director.
Beans is released in select US cinemas and on demand on 5 November.