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Daughters of the Country Movie Review

american native white series

Daughters of the Country is an intriguing series of four films beautifully produced by Norma Bailey for the National Film Board of Canada. The series spans the years 1770 through 1985, and each episode focuses on how a strong female character learns to deal with the clash between Native American and outside cultures. In the first episode, the title character, “Ikwe,” leaves her Ojibwa village to begin a new life with a young Scottish trader, an alliance that seems promising at first, but disintegrates over time. (Forever Knight devotees note that Geraint [“Nick”] Wyn Davies stars as Angus.) “Mistress Madeleine” is a Metis woman of the 1850s caught in the middle of a clash between the Hudson Bay company monopoly and Native American freetraders. The conflict is intensified by the reality that her common-law husband is a company clerk and her own brother is among the freetraders. In “Places Not Our Own,” set in 1929, a marvelous young actress named Diane Debassige plays Flora, whose dreams of attending school are shattered by the indifference of the white community. The small kindnesses she receives from individual townspeople do not compensate for the fact that Flora and her Metis family are not really considered part of the town. Diane Debassige also appears in “The Wake,” a contemporary story in which the Metis and the white community in Alberta are still at odds, with heartbreaking consequences for four Native American kids. Throughout this outstanding series, the sheer inadequacy of well-meant white liberalism is under attack, but never more so than in “The Wake.” A Native American woman and a white police officer fall in love amidst the racial tensions of the town, and again and again, in spite of his underlying intentions, it is easier on the officer's conscience that he take care of his own skin than face the very real danger his acquiescence represents to the people who are presumably under his care and protection. The overall effect of Daughters of the Country is “la plus ça change, la plus ça meme,” but producer/director Bailey and the women who wrote the ambitious series deserve high marks for tackling their central premise with strong narrative skills and loving attention to details often overlooked in other studies of Native American life. Highly recommended for viewers of all ages.

1986 228m/C CA William Ballantyne, Patrick Bruyere, Jamie Hardesty, Hazel King, Geraint Wyn Davies, Ken Charlette, Victor Cowie, Harry Daniels, Mireille Deyglun, Makka Kleist, William Ballantyne, Kate Berry, Diane DeBassige, Michael Fletcher, Damon Fontaine, Frank Adamson, Bill Alcorn, Cynthia Alcorn, Ken Charlette; D: Norma Bailey, Aaron Kim Johnston, Derek Mazur; W: Wendy Lill, Aaron Kim Johnston, Anne Cameron, Sandra Birdsell, Sharon Riis; C: Ian Elkin; M: John McCulloch, Pierre Guerin, Randolph Peters, Ron Halldorson. VHS

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