Director Loretta Sarah Todd, lead actress Grace Dove, and author Eden Robinson (L-R) behind the scenes. (VIFF Media)

Director Loretta Sarah Todd, lead actress Grace Dove, and author Eden Robinson (L-R) behind the scenes. (VIFF Media)

‘Monkey Beach’ supernatural film adaptation premiers at VIFF

Based on Kitamaat author Eden Robinson’s debut, mystical novel

“If you are powerful enough for the journey, you must be powerful enough to return,” Lisa narrates (Grace Dove, The Revenant).

The main character in Monkey Beach has returned to her home village of Kitamaat and to the powerful, unsettling visions that haunted her childhood. When her younger brother disappears, she’s driven back into the supernatural world she tried so hard to ignore.

The Haisla woman struggles to wrangle voices of the dead, powerful spirits and recurring visions with the real-life pain and trauma her family faces. As her story develops, time folds over on itself, revealing different information as Lisa relearns and re-sees what has happened — what will happen.

Elliptical storytelling is a signature style for director Loretta Sarah Todd and the novel’s author Eden Robinson. Both eschew the linear timelines where stories progress forward in favour of a place-based sense of time, allowing the land and ancestors to speak, making the past present for those who see.

Monkey Beach, adapted to film from Robinson’s debut novel wrestles the shadowlike storytelling onto screen using the score and cinematography to make the land its own character. West coasters will recognize this place. The way the sun soaks into forest across the water, and how turquoise water nearly clashes with the yellow-green of cedar and hemlock and messy piles of silver-tan driftwood tangle at the land’s edge.

RELATED: Northwest B.C. high school student lands role in Monkey Beach

Todd, a Cree/Metis/White filmmaker has been developing the novel to screen almost since Robinson, a Haisla/Heitlsuk writer published her first novel in 2000. Filming on location in Kitamaat Village was important to Todd, not just because that specific land is so key to the story, but so she could stack the cast and crew with Kitamaat and Indigenous people.

“I’m getting the chance to make this film that benefit should also be realized in the community where the story came from, where Eden lives. It was really critical for me to [film in Kitamaat] so I could hire as many people so there would be some revenue generated that would go back into the community,” she said in a director’s talk aired with the premier screening.

Monkey Beach had its world premiere on opening day of the Vancouver International Film Festival Sept. 24, but could be viewed as far away as Kitimat, since the festival is virtual this year. Select theatres also premiered the film in person, including in nearby Terrace.

The Vancouver International Film Festival runs Sept. 24 to Oct. 7, 2020.

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca


Film ReviewsIndigenous

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

BC Housing ensures that by March 31, shelter will be available to all people living outside. (Black Press Media file photo)
All unhoused Victoria residents will be offered shelter by March 31, says BC Housing

BC Housing working to secure shelter locations in coming weeks

Robert Schram, here seen in January 2016, died Saturday, according to a friend. (Black Press Media file photo)
Sidney, Saanich Peninsula mourn the death of Mr. Beads

Bead artist Robert Schram was a familiar, well-loved figure in Sidney and beyond

Cathy Armstrong, executive director of the Land Conservancy, Paul Nursey CEO of Destination Greater Victoria and Saanich Coun. Susan Brice helped to kick off the annual Greater Victoria Flower Count at Abkhazi Garden Monday. This year, the flower count is less about rubbing the region’s weather in the rest of Canada’ faces, and more about extending a bouquet of compassion and love. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
2021 Greater Victoria Flower Count sows seeds of compassion

Friendly flower count competition runs from March 3 to 10

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation, May 8, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C.’s weekend COVID-19 cases: 532 Saturday, 508 Sunday, 438 Monday

Fraser Health still has most, eight more coronavirus deaths

B.C. Attorney General David Eby speaks in the legislature, Dec. 7, 2020. Eby was given responsibility for housing after the October 2020 provincial election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends COVID-19 rent freeze again, to the end of 2021

‘Renoviction’ rules tightened, rent capped to inflation in 2022

Face mask hangs from a rear-view mirror. (Black Press image)
B.C. CDC unveils guide on how to carpool during the pandemic

Wearing masks, keeping windows open key to slowing the spread of COVID-19

Churches, including Langley’s Riverside Calvary Church, are challenging the regulations barring them from holding in-person worship services during COVID-19. (Langley Advance Times file)
Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

Police have identified the vehicle involved in the Feb. 14 hit-and-run in Chemainus and are continuing to investigate. (Black Press Media files)
Police seize and identify suspect vehicle in hit-and-run

Investigation into death expected to be lengthy and involved

(Black Press file photo)
Child in critical condition, homicide investigators probe incident near Agassiz

The child was transported to hospital but is not expected to survive

Sewage plant in Lower Mainland, operated by Metro Vancouver. (Metro Vancouver screenshot)
‘Poop tracker’ launches as researchers test Lower Mainland sewage water for COVID-19

‘Studying the virus in wastewater allows researchers to look at an entire population…’

Most Read