Review: Kuessipan (2019)

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Kuessipan (2019)

Directed by: Myriam Verreault | 117 minutes | drama | Actors: Brigitte Poupart, Étienne Galloy, Yamie Grégoire, Sharon Ishpatao Fontaine, Martin Desgagné, Douglas Grégoire, Roselyn Fontaine, Mike Innu Papu Mckenzie, Billy-Jack Jourdain, Cédrick Ambroise, Mikupishan Poirier, Caroline Vachon, Anniss Desterres

In rural Québec, in the French-speaking part of Canada, Inuit and white Canadians live together. There is not much work, but there are traditional socio-economic problems such as detachment from an original population group. However, the friendship between Inuit teenagers Mikuan (Fontaine) and Shaniss (Grégoire) is central to this drama by Myriam Verreault – best known as a documentary filmmaker.

‘Kuessipan’ (‘It’s your turn to tell the story’) is based on the 2013 novel of the same name by Canadian writer Naomi Fontaine (also screenplay). Rippling through teenage lives in a region where there is little to do, we follow the rapprochement of the two ladies with their white boyfriends. There’s some nuance in the backgrounds – one comes from a stable family, the other isn’t, one is half-breed, the other isn’t; that doesn’t make the present any rosier.

There is smoked a joint that starts a fire, there is sex and Netflix; a baby cries, a blow falls – typical teenage lives at the bottom of society, supported by moody music. An intimate atmosphere in a documentary setting. Verreault is clearly an actor director. A little menacing now and then, the director’s gaze remains tender. Perhaps too tenderly, but Verreault does not want to do more than respectfully portray the story of a minority.

Then what should you do? Satisfying a spoiled movie audience? Verreault does have people skills, and she shows it best in situational circumstances: Mikuan’s reaction when her boyfriend carves her name in the wood with a knife as a conquest, a family dinner with a little too much laughter. As is often the case in docudrama, the dramatic build-up is limited, as is the case in ‘Kuessipan’. There is a professional filmmaker at work in the casting and editing, there is no development that sticks.

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