In 2007 The Breath’s debut feature film, Tkaronto, made it’s world premiere at the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival in Toronto, Canada. As the Closing Night film it played to a sold out audience and quickly was sold to Kinosmith for distribution. Shortly thereafter it toured various films festivals picking up Directing Awards and glowing reviews for both the lead actors (and always a shout-out to Lorne Cardinal performance!). It was sold to Air Canada and SuperChannel, screened as part of the 150th Anniversary at Toronto’s City Hall, has been included in many Indigenous studies screenings, and was included in the TIFF Bell Lightbox’s Indigenous Cinema Retrospective. Director Shane Belcourt’s favourite accolade is its inclusion in Thomas King’s international best-seller, Inconvenient Indian, wherein he mentions Tkaronto as part of a new empowered movement in Indigenous Cinema (as a good thing!).
While the film screened at both film festivals and during it’s limited theatrical release, it received numerous glowing reviews. However, it was the first review it received by Jason Anderson at Eye Weekly that set the tone for things to come:
“The quality of writer-director Shane Belcourt’s feature debut – named after our city’s original Mohawk name – is all the more remarkable when you consider that it was made in six months on a measly budget of $20,000. Based on Belcourt’s experience as the son of a Métis father, the movie portrays the crises of Jolene and Ray (Duane Murray), two thirty-somethings who can’t figure out a way to square up their urban lifestyles and material ambitions with what an elder (played by Lorne Cardinal) calls “blood memory.” But for all of Tkaronto‘s heavy themes, the film has a sense of lightness that makes it one of the year’s most appealing local indie features.”
Tkaronto is a reflective and provoking exploration of two Aboriginal 30-somethings, Ray and Jolene, who make an unexpected connection at the pinnacle of a common struggle: to stake claim to their urban aboriginal identity.
Ray Morin, A Métis writer, is in Tkaronto (the original Mohawk word for “Toronto”) to pitch his TV series, Indian Jones. This looks to be his big break. The only problem is Ray’s growing disdain for TV execs who are more motivated by ticking off the Aboriginal box and tapping into “hot” Aboriginal funding than they are genuinely interested in the project itself. Ray feels caught between a rock and a hard place as his non-aboriginal wife puts the pressure on for him to take the job.
Jolene Peltier, an Anishnabe painter, is in Tkaronto conducting interviews for a series of portraits on prominent Aboriginal people. When Elder Max Cardinal gives her an eagle feather and sweetgrass, it confirms her deep-seated feeling that she should walk a spiritual path. But can walking this path mean the end of her relationship with her husband who seems utterly disinterested in Jolene’s newfound spiritual calling?
For Ray and Jolene, home feels very far away. And having this chance meeting with each other only raises a difficult question: would their questions of identity be answered if they were together?
Written & Directed by Shane Belcourt
Produced by Duane Murray, Shane Belcourt, & Jordan O’Connor
Executive Producer Michael Corbiere
Production Design by David Hannan
Shot by Shane Belcourt
Edit, Sound, & Score by Jordan O’Connor
Staring: Melanie McClaren, Duane Murray, Lorne Cardinal, and Cheri Maracle
Run Time: 105 mins
Format: HD Video (Panasonic HVX 200 with Red Rock Micro Adaptor)
Release Date: October 2007
Distributed by Kinosmith