VOD Review - Fire Song

This movie is about youth suicide within the Native American community, specifically the Native American community in Ontario, Canada. It focuses on a certain, indigenous tribe, but writer-director Adam Garnet Jones doesn't distinguish the tribe from any other. Jones, however, is probably aware of articles published a couple of years ago in the Huffington Post that reported suicide and self-inflicted injuries are the leading causes of death for Canada's indigenous population. Boiling it down, in 2015, the Huffington Post also reported that Native Americans, ages 18 to 24, have higher rates of suicide than any other ethnicity and higher than the general population. The numbers come from the CDC and also the causes are typically alcohol-related. Contributing factors include high rates of intimate partner violence and high rates of poverty and unemployment. Jones' film represents and depicts those factors in short order.

The movie opens with the suicide of a teen girl. It also ends with the suicide of a teen girl. The movie doesn't seem to make a distinction between the sexes, even though there is a different outlook for girls. Jones isn't saying girls are more likely to kill themselves or anything like that. The movie centers on a young man but Jones does give an appropriate and significant amount of time to a young woman. He tells a balanced story in that regard.

Andrew Martin stars as Shane, a Native American who is living in rural Ontario. He's in his last year in high school. He wants to go to college, but the town, if one can call it that, where he lives is very impoverished. His father isn't in the picture, and the only family are his mother and grandmother. Sadly, the young girl who dies in the beginning is Shane's sister. It's never explored as to why his sister commits suicide, but it provides extra, unspoken incentive for Shane to leave his poor environment and head to the city.

Shane's stumbling block to leaving for Toronto or some metropolis is money. He doesn't seem to have any scholarship or loans that he can get for college. If he leaves, he's going to have to pay for it himself. His uncle advises him to stay and work in the mines, which seems to be a labor job easily available. Shane wants to leave. He doesn't want anything that could anchor him in that poverty-stricken area. This pushes him to extremes because he feels trapped and with no help to escape.

At the same time, Shane is involved in a love triangle. Shane has a girlfriend named Tara, played by Mary Galloway. Shane also has a boyfriend named David, played by Harley Legarde. Tara is pressured to do certain things as a woman. David is teased for being gay, even though he never admits to being gay. There is some homophobia both external and internalized. Through all this, the movie doesn't provide a complete picture but does give an authentic and genuine glimpse at these struggling, young people.

Not Rated but contains language, disturbing images of suicide and a sexual assault.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 25 mins.

Available on Netflix.


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