Hero by Nature is a tragic story with a confusing plotline.
The 15-minute short film is set in the aftermath of the Oka crisis of 1990, when the Sûreté du Quebec stormed a peaceful blockade by Kanesatake Mohawks, a police officer died and a 78-day standoff ensued.
The film has been doing the festival circuit for over a year now and has won a couple of awards.
It deals with relationships between racially diverse neighbours, in this case a Mohawk man and his son, and a non-native family led by a hell-bent-on-racism-and-hatred patriarch named Roger Martin.
But we never understand the nonnative man’s racism. Was it because the Mohawks stood up for their rights? Did he just not like Native people? Or did a Mohawk wrong him at a certain point in his life? We never know.
We do see his hatred towards his Mohawk neighbours, Joe McCumber and his son Jimmy, and his insistence that his own son not go near them.
Laurent-Christophe Du Ruelle, who plays Roger Martin’s son, David, beautifully delivers the genuine kindness and understanding of innocence. Untouched by racism and not yet aware of his place in today’s society, he and his Mohawk buddy Jimmy, played by Jesse Rath, just like to hang out and play together, regardless of their different colour.
It would have been good if there were more background given as to why the neighbours, despite McCumber’s best efforts, don’t get along. Roger just looks like he’s mad at the world and that his best reason for hating his neighbour is that he doesn’t pay taxes. Perhaps integrating some real-life footage of white townsfolk protesting and yelling racial slurs would have given a little more context to his rage.
The climax of the story, when Roger discovers that his son was saved by Joe McCumber and that the older man was now beneath the ice, needed some work.
It’s not a stretch that the guy would rush to save the old man. That isn’t necessarily his racist ways being put aside; it’s more like something anyone except the most despicable person would do. So he’s not a total monster; big deal.
When Roger and David show up at the hole in the ice and McCumber is lying there frozen, the son embraces him and then the credits roll. What? I want an ending! I understand leaving it to our imagination, but I wanted McCumber to perish just so this racist man could live with it the rest of his life. But maybe that’s just me.
They also could have made the white guy more heroic, maybe helping the man who just saved his son from drowning or freezing to death? CPR might have been an option?
All in all I have to say that it seems whenever a movie is made by those who did not live the actual events of the crisis, it falls short.
I would give it 2.5 stars out of 5, mostly for trying to tell a solid story, but failing to satisfy the audience and for not getting a solid point across.
To order a copy or to find out more about the characters, go to http://www.vikingfilm.com/hero/ and judge for yourself.