Director Loretta Sarah Todd, lead actress Grace Dove, and author Eden Robinson (L-R) behind the scenes. (VIFF Media)

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

Numbers of new COVID-19 cases for the week of Feb. 14 to 20 appear to be trending down for all local health areas in the North Okanagan-Shuswap. (BC Centre for Disease Control map)
Colours on COVID-19 map getting lighter for North Okanagan-Shuswap

Number of new weekly cases reported by BC Centre for Disease Control drop throughout region

Smoke dissipates as fire crews respond to smoke that was billowing from a residential building in the 400 block of Fourth Avenue SE in Salmon Arm about 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 24. (Jim Elliot-Salmon Arm Observer)
Residents displaced following Salmon Arm apartment fire

Crews were called to the scene at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 24

A chocolate banana cream pie, similar to the smaller version pictured, baked by the Shuswap Pie Company’s Tovah Shantz, fetched $5,000 in this year’s Heritage Week pie auction fundraiser for R.J. Haney Heritage Village and Museum. (Shuswap Pie Company photo)
Shuswap Pie Company creation fetches $5,000 for Salmon Arm attraction

Heritage Week pie auction raises $51,500 for R.J. Haney Heritage Village & Museum

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson)
30 new COVID-19 cases, five more deaths in Interior Health

This brings the total number of cases to 7,271 since testing began

The Habitat for Humanity ReStore in the former Kal Tire location in Salmon Arm now has its own truck as well as ‘opening soon’ signs on the building. (Photo contributed)
Salmon Arm ReStore looking for volunteers as setup to begin

Stocking shelves expected to start within two weeks, soft opening in April

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

Royal LePage Place, along with the adjacent Jim Lind Arena are the two ice arenas operated by the City of West Kelowna..—Image credit: contributed
$442,200 to replace aging ammonia chiller at West Kelowna arena

West Kelowna is the recipient of a provincial grant to replace the ammonia chiller

The husband wife team of Brett Turner and Olivia Fobert are the bakers and makers behind Joy Road Catering who are opening up a pop up bakeshop this May in the former Craft Kitchen. (Facebook)
Pop-up bakeshop opening in downtown Penticton

Joy Road Catering’s Bakeshop will be offering breads, pastries, lunch bowls and a marketplace

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP will not trigger election as long as pandemic continues: Singh

‘“We will vote to keep the government going’

Major renovations are planned for the Centennial Outdoor Rink in Vernon. - Photo submitted
$695K grant to get Vernon rink ready for next season

Provincial funding will go toward replacing chiller at Centennial Outdoor Rink

BC49 logo
$75K lotto ticket sold in Vernon

Check your tickets, someone is winning big through the BC/49

Highway 5 pictured at Zopkios Southbound, Feb. 25 morning. (DriveBC)
Winter storm warning issued for Coquihalla, Highway 3

Up to 30 cm of snow expected by Friday (Feb. 26) morning

Pivot Rx is a new downtown Vernon pharmacy that aims to combine face-to-face care with the latest technological offerings in pharmaceutical care. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
New Vernon pharmacy takes ‘old-school’ approach to cutting-edge care

Pivot Rx has set up shop downtown in a building formerly home to MacKay’s Prescriptions for 40 years

Students from Summerland’s Okanagan College often posed for photographs on the Big Rock. The rock was on the northern slope of Giant’s Head Mountain. (Photo courtesy of the Summerland Museum)
Summerland’s Big Rock had been deposited during last ice age

Rock was once a prominent feature on Giant’s Head Mountain

Most Read