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

(File image)
Vehicle collides with propane line causing explosion in Thornhill

Driver caught fire, is now being treated at Mills Memorial Hospital

The plan to build a staircase to the Bench includes a channel to more easily transport bicycles up and down. (Photo courtesy City of Terrace)
Staircase to Bench subject of City grant application

Would connect lower Eby St. to upper Eby St.

The car was trapped, with its driver inside, in a ditch off Hirsch Creek Main near Onion Lake overnight Monday (Oct. 19). Oct. 20, 2020. Kitimat RCMP photo.
Man found after spending overnight stuck in car in a ditch near Onion Lake

Kitimat RCMP said the man was stuck there overnight for about 10 hours

FILE - Nathan Cullen speaks to media in Smithers, B.C., Friday, February 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
More calls come in for Cullen’s removal as NDP candidate

Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs demand Cullen’s removal. Ellis says, There’s no place in B.C. for racism

Martin Holzbauer, independent, Nicole Halbauer, BC NDP, and Ellis Ross, BC Liberal Party, are the candidates for the Skeena riding in the upcoming provincial election. (Terrace Standard/BC NDP)
Skeena candidates talk northwest education

Online learning access and early childhood education were common themes

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presents modelling of COVID-19 spread in B.C., March 25, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 203 new cases

up to 1,766 active cases in B.C., two more deaths

More and more electric cars are on the road, but one Chevy Bolt owner was shocked to see how much his BC Hydro bill skyrocketed once he started charging the vehicle. (Black Press file photo)
Lower Mainland man sees significant spike in BC Hydro bill after buying electrical vehicle

An increase should be expected, but Brian Chwiendacz experienced a 200-plus per cent hike

The Anonymous YVR is an Instagram page that reviews restaurants and other establishments around B.C. based on how well they adhere to COVID-19 rules. (Instagram)
Anonymous Instagram page reviews COVID-19 safety measures at B.C. businesses

There are a number of public health orders various types of establishments must follow to slow virus’s spread

Jordan Naterer, an electrical engineer from Vancouver, was last seen Saturday Oct. 10. (Facebook photo)
Search efforts to resume for missing Manning Park hiker; Trudeau speaks on case

PM says he’ll do what he can to ‘nudge’ efforts to find Jordan Naterer, yet has little leverage locally

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Smartphone showing various applications to social media services and Google. (Pixabay photo)
National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues

École de L’Anse-au-sable. (Google Maps)
B.C. records first COVID-19 outbreak at school, six weeks after students return to class

Three cases of the virus have been identified at École de L’Anse-au-sable

Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau is seen as she leaves media event during a campaign stop in West Vancouver, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green leader hopes voters see value in minority government

The Greens received nearly 17 per cent of the popular vote in 2017 yet received just three seats

Most Read