Crees, if you’ve been waiting to catch an honest yet entertaining film about teenage life on the reserve, Dance Me Outside is a definite must-see. Based on the novel by W. R Kinsella, Bruce McDonald’s latest film is successful in combining the intensity of truth with a comedy that is inoffensive.
This film deals with many subjects—day-to-day living on the reserve, the starts and stops of teenage relationships, a racially motivated murder and the series of events that follow. It opens up with Silas Crow, a young Native who is somewhat of a storyteller and a seeker of truth. His pensive personality is complimented by the character of Frank Fencepost—a wild-spirited guy who challenges life with a carefree attitude. Together with the outspoken Sadie, Silas’ long-time girlfriend, they alone manage to create more interest in the plot due to their different perspectives on life.
One scene that was truly hilarious and meaningful too comes later on in the film. Silas’ sister, Uliana, is returning from the big city with her uptight white husband, Robert McVey. They are trying desperately to have a baby, but due to his low sperm count, they are helpless. With the boys’ aid, Uliana indulges in a sad and beautiful reunion with her old flame, Gooch—a brooding guy who has spent the last three years in prison.
To divert McVey from this situation, Silas and the boys comically initiate McVey into the tribe. In the middle of the forest, they get rip roaring drunk by the fire and carry on this serious ceremony—garishly painting their faces and bodies and christening McVey “the Wolverine.” He is ecstatic about the whole scene. As dawn approaches they run screaming with exhiliration towards a cliff and dive into the water below. At the same time, an eerie version of “Amazing Grace” with bagpipes and Native flutes plays in the background as we are shown Uliana and Gooch together for the last time.
This is a film that portrays real characters in a real-life setting. It is not made to look pretty or idealistic; therefore the audience can really relate to what is happening. This is achieved by the magnificent cast—chock-full of exciting young Native Canadian talent, and I’m confident we’ll all be seeing more of them in the future. In particular, Ryan Black really won me over in the role of Silas—puzzled, shy, yet thoughtful and good-hearted. Black portrays his character with so much honesty that I found myself riveted to the screen, just trying to figure out what he’s thinking. It seems like the role of Silas was created for Black, and he plays it with such simplicity! That is the mark of a great artist, in any field—to make his work seem second-nature. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Ryan Black’s gift for acting— hopefully soon! As well, the roles of Frank Fencepost and Sadie Maracle are wonderfully portrayed. Adam Beach is hilarious as the goofy, laid-back Frank! He really adds a lot to the film—taking the focus away at times from the tragic circumstances with his child-like enthusiasm and energy. The role of Sadie is played by Jennifer Podemski, whose acting makes it possible for the audience to recognize both Sadie’s strong-willed, rebellious attitude as well as her hidden, hurt and vulnerable side.
Dance Me Outside should be available on home video everywhere soon. Despite some minor discrepancies in editing and maybe a little too much harsh realism, I would definitely recommend experiencing this film and all it entails, especially to Crees and other Natives, and I congratulate Bruce McDonald and the entire cast and crew on such great work.