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

The City of Williams Lake and Cariboo Regional District are conducting a housing needs survey for Williams Lake and area. Before this new affordable housing complex on First Avenue North opened in Williams Lake in 2019, it already had a waiting list. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Housing needs survey for Williams Lake and area launched

City of Williams Lake and Cariboo Regional District survey closes on Nov. 20, 2020

This Google Maps screenshot shows the Highway 97 intersection at Juniper Road that is being deactivated in South Quesnel. (Google Maps screenshot)
Juniper Road intersection being deactivated in South Quesnel

Traffic can no longer enter or exit Highway 97 at Juniper Road in a move to improve road safety

Carey and Angela Price announced the birth of their third child on Monday, named Lincoln. (Photo submitted)
Canadiens’ Carey Price, wife Angela, announce birth of baby boy Lincoln

Prior to Monday’s announcement, Carey and Angela had two daughters: Liv, 4, and Millie, 1

Williams Lake RCMP are hoping to speak with Amber Wuetz. (Photo submitted)
Williams Lake RCMP concerned for missing woman’s well-being

Amber Wuetz was last seen in Williams Lake

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks during a drive-in car rally campaign stop at a tour bus operator, in Delta, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Andrew Wilkinson stepping down as B.C. Liberal leader

Will stay on until the next party leader is chosen

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

VicPD and B.C. Conservation Officer Service teamed up to free two bucks who were entangled in a fishing net and dragging a wheelbarrow sized piece of driftwood behind them. (VicPD)
VIDEO: Police, B.C. Conservation help two bucks caught in one fishing net

Bucks were also dragging a wheelbarrow sized piece of driftwood behind them

A heavy police presence was spotted in Lumby, Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. (Facebook)
Police situation leads to ‘hold and secure’ at North Okanagan school

Police call for social media blackout in ongoing incident

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

“We have to make a call out to address this now so our people don’t have to feel fearful,” said Tribal Chief Mina Holmes. (Carrier Sekani Tribal Council Facebook photo)
Carrier Sekani Tribal Council seeks Indigenous-led task force in northern B.C. hospitals

Request made in an open letter to federal minister Carolyn Bennett

École de l’Anse-au-sable. (Google Maps)
COVID-19 outbreak forces closure of Kelowna school

The outbreak is the first within B.C.’s school system since classes resumed back in September

FILE – B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts owner, Senator David Braley speaks after the CFL announced Vancouver will host the 2014 Grey Cup championship football game during a news conference in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday March 8, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
BC Lions owner David Braley dead at 79

Braley had bought the CFL team prior to 1997 season

Most Read