From July to September 1990, two Mohawk communities in Quebec — Kanehsatà:ke and Kahnawá:ke — were thrust into a resistance against the Sûreté du Québec, the RCMP, and the Canadian Armed Forces. Referred to in the media as the “Oka Crisis,” the three-month standoff captured the attention of the entire country as the communities protested the expansion of a golf course into a forest and burial ground.
Writer-director Tracey Deer’s astounding and timely debut feature, set in the summer of 1990, tells the story of a 12-year-old Mohawk girl named Beans (Kiawentiio, in a phenomenal breakout performance). Beans is a bright and promising student trying to find her place in her community, but she faces a number of challenges. In addition to the complex situations so characteristic of adolescence, she encounters the intricacies of using her voice for activism, and the devastating impacts of experiencing violent racism first-hand.
Caught between youth and adulthood, between Indigenous identity and white settler culture, Beans skillfully navigates the nuances of this friction to deliver a compelling, important message on self-identity in a broad societal context. Similar to how Alanis Obomsawin blazed a trail for authentic Indigenous onscreen narratives with Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance, Deer forges her own creative path to explore the harrowing events at Kahnawá:ke that are rooted in her own experience as a teenager.
Beans is a powerful coming-of-age drama from behind the protest lines. With its sensitive portrayal of internal and community conflicts gleaned from lived experience, it is poised to blaze a new trail for the next generation of Indigenous filmmakers.