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‘Beans’ Is A Brilliant and Must-See Coming-of-Age Tale – Review

12-year-old Beans (Kiawentiio) is a Mohawk girl who is fast approaching teenagehood. Having just interviewed to attend one of the best schools in the province, Beans is looking forward to what her future holds. However, her life is soon turned upside-down when a stand-off between the Kanehsatà:ke and Kahnawá:ke Mohawk communities and the Sûreté du Québec, the RCMP, and the Canadian Armed Forces begins. With a golf course scheduled to be made upon Mohawk land and a Mohawk burial ground, the stand-off becomes violent and audiences witness the continual suffering of Indigenous communities at the hands of the Canadian government and non-Indigenous Canadians.

Beans is is suddenly forced into a situation where she feels the need to make adult decisions in order to help her family. However, still wanting to keep some semblance of normalcy and continue to live her childhood, she begins to rebel. Not only does Beans push the boundaries with her parents, specifically her mother, Lily (Rainbow Dickerson). But upon making new friends including April (Paulina Alexis), Beans soon finds that rebelling is also a means to navigate the tension, racism, and anti-Indigenous sentiment she finds herself surrounded by.

Kiawentiio as Beans and Rainbow Dickerson as Lily in Beans
Kiawentiio as Beans and Rainbow Dickerson as Lily in Beans (Courtesy of EMAfilms Inc.)

Writer-director Tracey Deer’s feature directorial debut Beans is a stunning piece of filmmaking. Deer holds nothing back as she sheds light on one of the most important moments of Canadian history. Dubbed by the media as the “Oka Crisis”, Beans does the important job of highlighting the story from the perspective of the Indigenous communities behind the frontlines of the stand-off. As seen from the news clips that are peppered throughout the film, it is evident that most of the news coverage was from the other side of the stand-off. Beans does the work of showing what the Kanehsatà:ke and Kahnawá:ke Mohawk communities were going through at the time of the crisis. Not only did Beans showcase what was happening with the stand-off, but also a story about what was happening with the youth in the communities at the time.

Kiawentiio shines as Beans putting forth an understated and powerful performance which is sure to captivate audiences. Equally great in the roles of Lily and April respectively, are Dickerson and Alexis. Each and every one help bring Deer’s story to life with passionate performances that are some of the best that I’ve witnessed from the many films screened at Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) this year. It is easy to tell that Deer put her absolute all into Beans and created a piece of art that is a stirring and eye-opening masterpiece. Beans is truly one of the best coming-of-age films that you will experience and certainly worthy of several watches.

Beans premiered at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival on September 13.

*Update: Beans was the second runner-up for the People’s Choice Award at TIFF 2020.

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