Brother, I Cry tells the story of Indigenous siblings, Jon and Ava, struggling with the effects of inter-generational trauma in their own ways while staying spiritually connected. (Supplied image)

Brother, I Cry tells the story of Indigenous siblings, Jon and Ava, struggling with the effects of inter-generational trauma in their own ways while staying spiritually connected. (Supplied image)

Q&A with VIFF’s B.C. Emerging Filmmaker Award winner, Jessie Anthony

Her feature film, Brother, I Cry premiered at VIFF this year

Jessie Anthony wrote, directed and produced Brother, I Cry, which had its world premier at this year’s virtual Vancouver International Film Fest, Sept. 24 – Oct. 7. VIFF awarded Anthony with the festival’s B.C. Emerging Filmmaker Award. The following interview has been edited for brevity and to avoid spoilers.

Zoë Ducklow: How did you get into filmmaking?

Jessie Anthony: I always knew I wanted to be a storyteller since I was young. I was always dramatic, always pretending something. When I looked for summer jobs, they never had jobs in theatre. They were jobs at a gas station or something like that. So I had people in my community wrote proposals and we’d put theatre camps together, or March break camp. I went to school for performing arts [and later was] accepted to Vancouver Film School’s acting program. The whole time, I saw a need for more Indigenous voices in filmmaking. Then I was accepted to Capilano’s Indigenous Filmmaking program.

And you won the B.C. Emerging Filmmaker Award from VIFF with your first feature.

I’m still so over the moon on that one. I called my mom when I found out and cried, and said, I just remember being a little rez girl saying, I wanna make movies. I wanna be in movies. I’m gonna do this and I’m gonna do that. And then to be recognized for it, it does something to you. Comments I’m getting from home too, people saying, “you always said you were going to do this!” So it’s quite an honour.

How did the story of Brother, I Cry come to you?

I had a dream where my brother had a overdose and his spirit came to me and told me, “I’m scared, I don’t know where I am, I need you to find me.” In my dream I went searching, and in reality, I know where all these drug house were because I’ve either dropped him off or picked him up there. So I was travelling through my dream trying to find him.

When I woke up I had this overwhelming feeling that this was going to be my reality, and that I needed to do something about it. That became my final short film [for the Capilano graduation project].

Nothing I do is going to save him, he needs to want to do it himself. But maybe if I show him my fears, it might make a difference. Or it might make a difference to someone else.

Have you talked to your brother about the film?

Yes. He very much knows my thoughts. We’ve worked very hard to be where we are in our relationship with his addiction. I’ve called him and read a scene to him and said, is this how it works? I know definitely called him and said, how do I steal a car? And he’s like, “this is how you’d steal a car,” you know.

But he also knows that the story is a collection of people. He’s the inspiration, and there’s a lot of influence there, but I also wrote from my experience dating someone who was addicted to crack cocaine. I wrote based on things that have happened all around me. All those characters have pieces of my personal trauma.

You’ve mentioned before that there’s a need for more positive, empowering Indigenous stories to be told, but also that you wanted to tell this story because it’s how it is on your rez when you go home.

I was nervous that people would take it the wrong way, but at the same time, it’s truth and I’m coming at this from a place of love. I want people to have a conversation. I want people to know they’re not alone. I want families to know that that frustration, I feel it too.

And that’s not a race thing, that’s not just an Indigenous thing, that’s a universal thing.

And I get it, there’s a need for those empowering stories. There is so much beauty and so much power in our stories. So you do have, as an artist, space to tell that truth. But I don’t know, I just felt I needed to tell that story. And it is being told from an Indigenous perspective, so I think it’s been told with a lot of respect.

Jon does this thing where he lights a cigarette from the toaster. It seems so much harder than just using a lighter.

Well that’s just it, he’s always loosing his lighter. It’s very common in my family, people smoke, and a lot of times you’re not allowed to smoke in the house. Even if they might find the lighter or go get one, that was just the easiest thing to do.

With [Jon], it’s a small subtle thing that he doesn’t listen, he doesn’t even listen to a simple house rule.

It was striking how each character clearly had their own backstory, their own way of responding to pain, and to Jon’s addiction.

I hope I communicated inter-generational trauma without being like, “This is inter-generational trauma! This is residential schools!” I didn’t want to do that, I wanted to bring people in and use the camera. I tried to put the camera like a fly on the wall to get glimpse of that cycle, and be invasive, and move with the family because that’s what the trauma does.

Like there’s that one scene in the kitchen where you’re in the corner, we’re in the corner watching, and you see the living room, the front door, the rest of the kitchen. Those three different spaces and the family is moving through them, and it’s like, that literally is how trauma is. It’s sitting in the corner watching us trying to figure it out.

RELATED: ‘Monkey Beach’ supernatural film adaptation premiers at VIFF

Without giving away the ending, this film really doesn’t give viewers any way out, it doesn’t make us comfortable.

Yeah, this is my fear. The movie is my fear for my brother.

And I’ve gotten texts from people, days after they watched saying, “We’re still cracking ourselves open. Thank you, because you’ve allowed me to grieve for our people.” Grief that she didn’t even know that was in here that started to move. Some of the comments I’ve been getting and the personal stories, I’m so grateful people have found that connection for themselves.

It takes a certain kind of bravery to make a film like this about issues that are still live for you. Like, this isn’t something that resolved and you’ve had time to reflect on.

No. He’s still very much a functioning addict. That’s another thing, I didn’t want to show a typical addict, I wanted to show a functioning — two functioning addicts — like Leah, she’s on methadone. Let’s talk about that. Oh you’re pregnant and on methadone? That’s something we’ve had to go through. And the shame and embarrassment that comes with that. Let’s get rid of those stigmas first.

I don’t know the answers. I don’t know any of the answers. All I know is I needed to bring up a conversation and say I love my brother and I don’t want him to die but this is the reality.

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca


Arts and cultureIndigenous

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vernon Search and Rescue, with help from the Air Rescue One helicopter out of Wildcat Helicopters in Kelowna, and Central Okanagan Search and Rescue, were able to transport an injured snowmobiler to Vernon Regional Airport, where he was loaded into an ambulance and taken to Vernon Jubilee Hospital with a serious, painful back injury. (Facebook photo)
Okanagan helicopter rescue teams called to retrieve injured sledder at Greystokes

Vernon and Central Okanagan Search and Rescue help load injured man into waiting helicopter

Chase RCMP held two men involved in drunken disturbances overnight in their detachment’s cells on Feb. 6. (File Photo)
Chase RCMP hold two men involved in drunken disturbances overnight

The two separate incidents took place less than an hour apart.

The District of Sicamous is trying to take over management of the Sicamous and District Recreation Centre . (File Photo)
District of Sicamous seeks management contract for hockey arena

The arena has been managed by a non-profit society since it was built in the early 1980s.

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Chase RCMP arrest intoxicated man running into highway traffic

The man was wanted on several warrents in Alberta; was held overnight but released

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

(Contributed)
Kelowna flight potentially exposed to COVID-19

Third case on a local flight this month, compared to 14 through January

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Would allow outdoor services of 25 or less by Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack churches

Wills Hodgkinson, 10, and his mom Neeley Brimer get ready to battle round three of cancer. The community of Penticton has his back. (Submitted)
Community raises $21K to help Penticton boy battle third round of cancer

Okanoggin Barbers held the fundraiser on Saturday for 10-year-old Wills Hodgkinson

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
UPDATE: 70-year-old man killed in workplace accident at Baldy Mountain

The mountain closed on Saturday but has partially re-opened today (Sunday)

Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

Kamloops Fire Rescue battled a landfill fire which belched toxic smoke into the air on Feb. 27. (City of Kamloops Photo)
Fire at Kamloops landfill sends thick black smoke into the air

Firefighters made slow progress on the fire throughout the morning.

Most Read