IT MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS OF BEANS!
After being cherished during the Toronto Film Festival, Beans is set to join the Generation section of this year’s Berlinale. Beans tells the coming-of-age story of a 12 year-old girl, that provides the title of the film, who finds herself in the middle of an unfortunate real life event in the 90s, where the Quebecer government and armed forces collide with the Mohawk community over a land that is sacred to them, and a golf court that is set to be built on it. Directed by Tracey Deer, Beans is a revolutionary small film that breaks the barriers of a genre that has been following the same formula for a very long time. We can tell by the first minutes of Beans that this is a story that connects intimately with the director’s personal history, and this is actually one of the many amazing aspects of Beans.
Deer’s vision is not only personal, as it is essential in understanding the impacts of growing up in a violent and discriminative environment. As we follow young Beans (a wonderful debut by Kiawentiio) in her daily life, we immediately forge a connection with her and the struggles she faces during her precocious rise to adulthood, creating a non-typical teenager that has the urge to grow more rapidly in order to provide protection, not only for herself, but for her family too. During 78 intense days, Beans watches her world change in the worst possible way, with violence errupting in different places she once believed were safe. Deer manages to capture the aggressiveness of the conflict by adding archive footage, making it more believable to the viewer that can easily forget this is based on a true story. In doing so, Deer can make audiences become more invested in rooting for the leading family and understanding the difficulties that Beans herself is trying to overcome alongside them. It can be a harsh reality and, when the viewers think nothing could shock them even more, Deer injects another dosage of obstacles that allows us to see Beans, not only through a political point of view, but in a humane way.
Growing up during such a violent conflict can be tough, but it gets tougher when you are in a very delicate part of your own life. Beans‘ dilemmas trascend any type of politics or social relationships; they are adjacent to this particular phase in her life, with hormones feeding her frustrations, and erratic actions forcing her to pursue a lifestyle she believes will toughen her to face her current problems. Being a teenager is already hard on its own, but being in the center of a tremendously oppressive armed conflict can be even more challenging. It’s easy for us to see Deer’s connection to her own story and one can only imagine the horror she has been through. Beans is a film that stands out on its own two feet, and paves the way for a more mature approach of the coming-of-age drama. By adding a personal touch and revisiting all the hardships she has endured, Beans is a courageous, beautifully engaging film, directed by an also very courageous director, who isn’t scared to speak her truth.
The cast is extremely captivating, with a special mention to Rainbow Dickerson who can already be considered for a supporting role nomination next year, and to young Kiawentiio that fiercely conducts the film in a unique and realistic way. Beans is definitely an educational essay, creatively set as a coming-of-age story that blooms into something bigger. Ending with a beautiful song called Light at the End, Beans is an expression of courage, of fighting against injustice, and, most of all, a visual poem dedicated to the Mohawk community that suffered during this unfortunate conflict.
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Director: Tracey Deer
Duration: 92 min.