CSFF 2017: Keepers of the Game

KeepersoftheGame

High school funding for sports, and girls’ sports in particular, is on the decline, but fundraising isn’t the only issue for the members of the Salmon River High team. As the first all-Native girls’ lacrosse team in their section, they’ve got something to prove, and not just to their rivals, but to their own community as well.

Lacrosse was born on their land, the Akwesasne Mohawk Territory, but it’s a game traditionally reserved for men. Considered a gift from their Creator, lacrosse was meant as a way for men to settle disputes among tribes. The community is split as to whether women should be allowed to play this sacred game at all. Some believe that like all surviving culture, theirs too must grow and change to meet the needs of the people. Others cling to tradition. But all agree that this game is medicinal and can be used for healing. When the girls play, they take it seriously; they too want to honour their culture. Is it really such an abomination to take up their Nation’s sport?

Director Judd Ehrlich does an excellent job of sitting back and letting the girls speak for themselves. It’s clear from footage that there is no lack of skill or athleticism, but the girls are also thoughtful and expressive. Ehrlich frames the documentary as one season’s push to defeat a rival team, win a championship, and change hearts and minds along the way, but this documentary, part of the programming at the Canadian Sport Film Festival, is also an exploration of culture and identity. The film is much more than the game. And thanks to nimble editing and savvy camerawork, it’s a thrill to watch, too.

Screens:
Friday, June 9, 6:30 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox

Tickets can be purchased at the Canadian Sport Film Festival website.