stats
globeinteractive.com: Making the Business of Life Easier

   Finance globeinvestor   Careers globecareers.workopolis Subscribe to The Globe
The Globe and Mail /globeandmail.com
Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space


Search

space
  This site         Tips

  
space
  The Web Google
space
   space



space

  Where to Find It


Breaking News
  Home Page

  Report on Business

  Sports

  Technology

space
Subscribe to The Globe

Shop at our Globe Store


Print Edition
  Front Page

  Report on Business

  National

  International

  Sports

  Arts & Entertainment

  Editorials

  Columnists

   Headline Index

 Other Sections
  Appointments

  Births & Deaths

  Books

  Classifieds

  Comment

  Education

  Environment

  Facts & Arguments

  Focus

  Health

  Obituaries

  Real Estate

  Review

  Science

  Style

  Technology

  Travel

  Wheels

 Leisure
  Cartoon

  Crosswords

  Food & Dining

  Golf

  Horoscopes

  Movies

  Online Personals

  TV Listings/News

 Specials & Series
  All Reports...

space

Services
   Where to Find It
 A quick guide to what's available on the site

 Newspaper
  Advertise

  Corrections

  Customer Service

  Help & Contact Us

  Reprints

  Subscriptions

 Web Site
  Advertise

  E-Mail Newsletters

  Free Headlines

  Globe Store New

  Help & Contact Us

  Make Us Home

  Mobile New

  Press Room

  Privacy Policy

  Terms & Conditions


GiveLife.ca

    

PRINT EDITION
'If you do this, it will help people heal'
space
The director and stars of Indian Horse discuss their personal connections to the confrontation with Canada's dark past
space
By JOHANNA SCHNELLER
Special to The Globe and Mail
  
  

Email this article Print this article
Saturday, April 14, 2018 – Page R10

The question had to be asked.

Over the phone, the Montreal-born director Stephen Campanelli is relaxed, friendly, eager to communicate. He read Richard Wagamese's acclaimed novel Indian Horse, he tells me, followed by Dennis Foon's film script, and was electrified by them. As a Canadian, he was angered and embarrassed that he hadn't been taught the history behind the story: Indigenous children ripped from their families, forced into residential schools and physically and sexually abused.

He wrote the producers an impassioned, six-page e-mail about what the book meant to him and why he had to direct the film. He wanted to open others' eyes as his had been, to champion the story of Saul Indian Horse - a residential-school survivor and natural hockey player who struggles against racism, alcoholism and what exactly "Canada's game" means. Campanelli has been Clint Eastwood's go-to camera operator for 22 years, from The Bridges of Madison County through Million Dollar Baby to Sully. So when Indian Horse needed a financial and commercial boost, he called on Eastwood to be an executive producer.

But did he ever wonder if an Indigenous director should do the job instead? "That's a good question," Campanelli answers unhesitatingly.

"You're the first person to ask me that. But for me, no. I just felt I was the person to tell it. I read hundreds of scripts. This one spoke to me. I knew I could do it. I had full confidence, which is very weird for me. I wanted other people to be affected and learn from it the way I did. My research, the depths I found about what happened. It basically changed my life."

Wagamese, who was also an actor (North of 60), and who died in March, 2017, approved of Campanelli's hiring and his vision. Although Wagamese never saw the finished film, Campanelli consulted with him and sent him rushes. "Richard was such a brilliant, prolific, poetic, cinematic writer," Campanelli says. "I picked his brain as much as I could."

In fact, Campanelli added more of Wagamese's words to Foon's script: the voice-over narration, lifted straight from the novel. "It's Richard's story, not mine," Campanelli insists. "I didn't impose myself on it." The film weaves together three periods in Saul's life: his childhood in residential school, his teenage hockey playing and his struggles as an adult drifter. Saul No. 1is played by Sladen Peltier, an 11-year-old newcomer from Ottawa who's been on skates since he was two. At Little NHL (Native Hockey League) tournaments, the film's producers put up flyers announcing open casting calls.

Peltier's mother brought one home, and his charisma won him the gig - over 500 other kids. "His acting was a little rough; he'd never even been in a school play," Campanelli says. "But it was a leap of faith."

Peltier is a lefty, but learned to play right-handed hockey to make things easier for the two right-handed Sauls who succeeded him: No. 2, Forrest Goodluck (The Revenant) and No. 3, Ajuawak Kapashesit, who is in his 20s, is Cree and Ojibwa, and grew up in Minnesota and Ontario. In a dual interview in a Toronto airport hotel, in-between hockey tournament games, Peltier lords his skills over Kapashesit's.

"This guy didn't know how to skate, and Stephen didn't want to make his job harder," Peltier crows.

"Even switching hands to shoot, Sladen is still the most talented hockey player I've ever seen," Kapashesit says, emphasizing the word "talented" so it becomes both compliment and bigbrother ribbing.

"That's so nice. I wish I could say the same about you," Peltier shoots back.

"It was hard because we had to use straight sticks and historically accurate skates," Kapashesit continues.

"Oh, 'historical,' I'm cool," Peltier interrupts.

"This is what he does," Kapashesit says, laughing. "This is why I can't go anywhere with him."

The three Sauls shared only a few flashback scenes, but the older two came to set to study Peltier's mannerisms and idiosyncrasies. "They'd always be off in a corner yapping away together," Campanelli recalls.

Although Campanelli tried to keep the mood light, his material was heavy going. It's one thing to tell a kid in a horror movie that it's all pretend. This horror happened. "Sladen's a sensitive, wonderful soul," Campanelli says. "At the end of long days, I had to hug him and make a silly joke to cheer him up from what he was going through."

The scene in which Saul's long braid was chopped off at the residential school was the hardest, because it was Peltier's actual hair. "We were all bawling our eyes out," Campanelli says.

"I wasn't okay with it at first," Peltier says. "But then my mom and dad had a talk with me. They said, 'If you do this, it will help people heal.' " He donated his hair to wigs for cancer patients.

Both actors have relatives who survived residential schools. "My grandfather would talk to us about getting hit with the strap, not being allowed to speak Cree," Kapashesit says. "All his siblings on the Cree side went to the schools. Cousins, too. People think of it as ancient history, a mistake that happened a long time ago. But it went on until 1996."

"My grandpa on my dad's side talked about it a little bit, but it took him a long time," Peltier says. "My grandpa from my mom's side still doesn't talk about. My dad and mother could have gone." He nods at Kapashesit. "You could have gone."

As well, both actors are all too familiar with the racism Saul faces. "The war-whoops, people chucking stuff at us, that was tough to play, but we had to depict it accurately," Kapashesit says.

"It's important that we show it, so other people can hear it. A lot of non-Indigenous people still don't know anything about the Native communities that surround them, or the Native people who have lived here since long before any of their people came. That lack of knowledge - of interest - leads to a lot of misunderstanding."

"When I had my long hair, people would always look at me different," Peltier says. "Sometimes in hockey they'd pull on it. When I would go to the washroom, people would say, 'This is the men's washroom.'" "I still get that," says Kapashesit, who wears his hair long. "The after-effects of the residential schools are still felt in all our communities. As for what Canada or Canadians should be doing about that, I don't have those answers.

But I know that doing nothing isn't appropriate. How about land? Or some money to help teach us to speak our native languages? Or to help us deal with the poverty and alcoholism that grew from the trauma of the schools? Formal apologies are fine, but they don't fix anything."

There was a second question I needed to ask Campanelli.

He said the book changed his life. How?

"I've learned so much about how First Nations peoples are connected to the earth and family and spirituality. I feel most North Americans have lost that connection," Campanelli replies. "When the Indigenous actors came to set, they brought not only their mothers and fathers, but also aunts, uncles, grandmothers, kids. We had blessings every day on set. It opened my eyes. It changed my perspective on people in general.

First Nations people are grounded in what matters most: protecting natural resources, protesting pipelines, supporting their families. That's what we should all be doing."

Canadians owe it to themselves and to First Nations peoples to learn this history, he continues.

"It's not a good part of our history, but it must be talked about. I'm happy to be part of that wave. After our screenings, I can see conversations starting, people in groups not leaving their seats."

"Elders have approached me after screenings," Kapashesit says. "They say, 'This is my story.' It opens up things in them that are hard to share." Then he throws down a new challenge, an answer to "Now what?" "But I don't want to just do Native roles," Kapashesit says. "Native people are more than just characters in buckskins in the 1800s. We're students and professors, we're working at the bank and putting money in the bank.

We're sitting here right now! I want to see more Native people in roles that are just roles."

Last question: Directors, are you listening?

Indian Horse opens across Canada April 13.

Associated Graphic

Sladen Peltier, left, and Ajuawak Kapashesit play residential-school survivor Saul Indian Horse at different ages in an adaptation of Richard Wagamese's novel, Indian Horse.

GLENN LOWSON/THE GLOBE AND MAIL


Return to Main Rob_Carrick Page
Subscribe to
The Globe and Mail
 

Email this article Print this article

space  Advertisement
space

Need CPR for your RSP? Check your portfolio’s pulse and lower yours by improving the overall health of your investments. Click here.

Advertisement

7-Day Site Search
    

Breaking News



Today's Weather


Inside

Rick Salutin
Merrily marching
off to war
Roy MacGregor
Duct tape might hold
when panic strikes


Editorial
Where Manley is going with his first budget




space

Columnists



For a columnist's most recent stories, click on their name below.

 National


Roy MacGregor arrow
This Country
space
Jeffrey Simpson arrow
The Nation
space
Margaret Wente arrow
Counterpoint
space
Hugh Winsor  arrow
The Power Game
space
 Business


Rob Carrick arrow
Personal Finance
space
Drew Fagan arrow
The Big Picture
space
Mathew Ingram arrow
space
Brent Jang arrow
Business West
space
Brian Milner arrow
Taking Stock
space
Eric Reguly arrow
To The Point
space
Andrew Willis arrow
Streetwise
space
 Sports


Stephen Brunt arrow
The Game
space
Eric Duhatschek arrow
space
Allan Maki arrow
space
William Houston arrow
Truth & Rumours
space
Lorne Rubenstein arrow
Golf
space
 The Arts


John Doyle arrow
Television
space
John MacLachlan Gray arrow
Gray's Anatomy
space
David Macfarlane arrow
Cheap Seats
space
Johanna Schneller arrow
Moviegoer
space
 Comment


Murray Campbell arrow
Ontario Politics
space
Lysiane Gagnon arrow
Inside Quebec
space
Marcus Gee arrow
The World
space
William Johnson arrow
Pit Bill
space
Paul Knox arrow
Worldbeat
space
Heather Mallick arrow
As If
space
Leah McLaren arrow
Generation Why
space
Rex Murphy arrow
Japes of Wrath
space
Rick Salutin arrow
On The Other Hand
space
Paul Sullivan arrow
The West
space
William Thorsell arrow
space





Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space

© 2003 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Help & Contact Us | Back to the top of this page