Combining mysticism and First Nations people seems like a natural way to convey a culture. Add a speculative science fiction element to it and you have Benjamin Ross Hayden’s The Northlander.
Set in 2961, a mysterious hunter with a reputation for his fierce nature, Cygnus (Corey Sevier), must help his people by defeating a blood thirsty clan, and find a new place for them to settle. His efforts are foiled when he is captured by his enemies and held prisoner alongside a fierce hunter woman, Mari (Rosanne Supernault). Together they unravel the mystery of their origins and Cygnus’ purpose.
Using Alberta’s breathtaking landscapes and filmed on sacred land, this film is ambitious and epic in it’s storytelling, and that’s where it runs into trouble. I’m all for the mystical and fantasy, but the dialogue was at times too cryptic, the story lagged due to some missing elements, and some of the scenes were too long. However, merit lies within the environmental angle of the story, along with some great fight scenes, the cinematography and an attractive cast.
What’s really important here is that often people of colour are excluded from speculative science fiction and fantasy. It takes a whole movement, much of it online, in order to get the proper attention that P.o.C. sci-fi deserves. The Northlander is a wonderful example of how doable it is. To see a cast that is a mixture of Indigenous peoples, Black, Asian, and other backgrounds dressed garb, that seems to be an amalgamation of cultures, is a speculative future that is feasible and one that I want (minus the bloodthirsty turf wars). It is not only refreshing, but reconfirms that not only can this type of film be written, but people want to make them and there’s an audience for it. Hats off to the Adam Beach Film Institute for creating a space where these types of films can be realized.
Despite a few hitches, I want people to see The Northlander touted as the first “Aboriginal science fiction” for Hayden’s gorgeous vision of the future with a mystical, multicultural slant.
Sunday, October 23, 4:30 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox
Tickets can be purchased at the ImagineNATIVE website.