BERLIN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! In this era of purported inclusivity, wherein the public focus shifts from one popular hashtag to another, minorities remain vastly underrepresented in film. Tracey Deer’s feature-length debut Beans, which traces the plight of Mohawk communities in early-1990s Canada through the prism of a prepubescent child, marks a small but significant step in the right direction. It feels timely and urgent, and its phenomenal young heroine ensures it doesn’t become overly mawkish, preachy, or prosaic.
The 12-year-old Tekahentahkhwa (newcomer Kiawentiio) is used to white folks not being able to pronounce her name, so she goes by Beans. Unlike some of her less-fortunate peers, Beans and her sister Ruby (Violah Beauvais) have had a relatively privileged upbringing. Nurtured by loving parents Lily (Rainbow Dickerson) and Kania’Tariio (Joel Montgrand), she’s on the verge of being accepted into a prestigious high school.
“…Tekahentahkhwa is used to white folks not being able to pronounce her name, so she goes by Beans.”
That’s when the Oka Crisis – Mohawks protesting the expansion of a golf course over their sacred ground – breaks out and escalates rapidly, and Beans’ family jumps into action. The director plunges viewers straight into the heart of the conflict along with them. “Protestors were on a hunt for Indians,” a reporter states. Shots ring out, smoke bombs erupt, and before they know it, Lily, Beans, and Ruby are on the run.
Meanwhile, Kania’Tariio joins the good fight, as the Kahnawá:ke people unite with the Chateauguay to stand up against the oppressive forces. Barricades and barb wire fences are swiftly built. Beans and her family are denied food at the grocery store, get harassed by the white locals, end up living in a tent, then a motel, and to make matters worse, Beans is getting bullied by a local gang of older kids.
"…when the world rejects you, you have no choice but to stick with your own."