First look at ‘LAST CALL INDIAN’

The documentary Last Call Indian begins with a simple premise captured in its very first shot. The narrator’s voice begins as the camera pulls back from an empty bed fitted with railings in a small sunlit bedroom. It’s a sick room. The empty bed speaks volumes.

Then a woman’s voice emerges, soft and clear: “I’ve never asked myself what binds me to my community, to my culture. I’ve never had to. It seemed obvious.” In that one shot, and in those few words, the story begins as all good stories do — with a question, an inference, because we know that nothing is obvious when it comes to culture or identity.

Last Call Indian
Opening scene from Last Call Indian

For Sonia Bonspille Boileau, our host and storyteller, the “obvious” question becomes a tangled ball of string complicated by her own family’s history which has been warped by the Shingwauk Indian Residential School, by stereotypes and racism neatly bundled into Canada’s Indian Act, along with constant pressure to assimilate — sometimes even from her own kind.

I’m not going to give away the journey taken with this young Mohawk woman, except to say that it’s worth the price of admission. If you ever wanted a glimpse into the havoc wreaked upon an entire peoples’ soul by the Indian Act and Canada’s on-going war to eradicate the “Indian in the Indian child,” then hop on board. There’s no way to really understand that havoc logically, intellectually, because Canada’s policies defy rational explanation. It must be felt to approach any sense of understanding of the pain and confusion it has and continue to inflict. This film takes the viewer on only one part of that emotional journey, but it does so with power and grace.

The camera work, direction and visual storytelling are superb. Graphics are used sparingly and to wonderful effect; for example, to illustrate the stupidity of and confusion sown by Canada’s Indian Act which assigns nearly as many categories of race — Indianness — as South Africa’s former apartheid laws. If you find yourself laughing at this point in the film, don’t worry. I did too. The choice is to laugh or find an Indian Affairs official to swear at.

From what I understand, this film is making waves at film festivals like the one coming up in San Francisco. Not too shabby for a little Mohawk girl with a big decision looming about identity and culture and whether it will be shaped by the very policies she obviously finds so bizarre, destructive and illogical. Good luck. Regardless which road you choose, you did good.

2 thoughts on “First look at ‘LAST CALL INDIAN’

  1. It was a very moving documentary based on my uncle. Sonia summed up the life of a wonderful and proud man.

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