One of Tracey Deer’s deepest memories growing up was the Oka Crisis, when Mohawk residents in Quebec protested plans to expand a golf course into their burial ground in the face of widespread racism. Now she’s turned her experience into a new coming-of-age film, “Beans,” which screened at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival.
“Beans” stars a young Mohawk actor, Kiawentiio, as Beans, a girl who travels with her family to the Oka protests only to be caught in an accelerating spiral of violent tension and open racism from white Canadians. Deer said that like Beans, she was 12 when the Oka Crisis happened and it was a “startling way to understand my place in this country as an indigenous woman.”
“The emotional journey that she goes on is very much inspired by my own journey. However, my journey went from 12 to my early 20s, and I’m still on that journey,” Deer told TheWrap’s Steve Pond.
Deer wanted to expose the history of racism faced by indigenous Canadians to a global audience and spent eight years working on the balance between Beans’ personal experiences and the larger events that unfolded during the 78 days of the Oka Crisis. Ultimately, she realized that the solution was to use archival footage to provide the historical context that she wanted.
“After years of struggling with the script, the one essential truth was that as a 12-year-old, I didn’t realize what was going on. So once I centered on this 12-year-old’s experience and let the audience experience events as she does — sometimes with information and sometimes without — that really helped propel the story forward.”
Watch more of Deer’s remarks in the clip above.