Clearcut (1991)
January 27, 2022 3:30 PM - Subscribe

A white lawyer finds his values shaken when he is paired with an angry Indigenous activist (Graham Greene) who insists on kidnapping the head of a logging company to teach him the price of his destruction.

Just re-released as part of Severin's epic folk horror box set. Currently streaming in the US on Shudder.
posted by DirtyOldTown (6 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I watched the fist half of this, slapped my forehead, then rewound and watched it again, so that this time I could fully appreciate that Arthur was a Trickster god conjured from the water and always had been.

Graham Greene is electric here, just chaos personified.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:54 AM on January 28, 2022

I have never heard of this, even though it touches on lots of themes I’m interested in! Maybe it’s because it’s a horror movie and I’m a big chicken. I see that Graham Greene said it was his favourite movie that he acted in, and being made so close to the Kanesatake Resistance it certainly would have had resonance.

It would be a good double feature with Blood Quantum.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 7:49 PM on January 28, 2022

I watched the fist half of this, slapped my forehead, then rewound and watched it again

Ha - I was going to say that the description in the header wasn't entirely accurate.

I have lot of goodwill towards this film for a few reasons and I was really glad to see Kier-La Janisse had included this and other Canadian folk horror in her documentary. While we often don't think of ourselves as having the same kind of antiquity that British & Continental folk horror has, our wide open sparsely populated spaces and the stories & traditions of indigenous people make for a fertile geography for it here.

It played at the Toronto Film Festival in 1991 well before I was paying attention to that festival but I recall seeing the very crappy VHS of Clearcut in the early 90s and being really intrigued by the film. Especially what caught my eye initially was that it was filmed in Northern Ontario (around Thunder Bay - I'm from east of there but it has a similar landscape). And it reminded me of a CBC show I watched & loved as a kid in the early 80s called Indian Legends (a few on Youtube here 1, 2, 3, 4). I’ve since revisited it every decade or so (a rarity for me) and I’m always impressed how it really doesn't feel dated as the issues it deals with are still ongoing.

I have never heard of this, even though it touches on lots of themes I’m interested in!

Despite being a Canadian film its not a super well-known film here. Wiki mentions this, and I've read it elsewhere, its release around the time of the so-called Oka Crisis or the Kahnestake Resistance is partially to blame for its lack of attention in Canada. While the fact that it is a Canadian film is really reason enough for it to be ignored (an issue I've talked about before), I think there is something to its association with the Kahnestake Resistance that marks its neglect. The 90s weren't a time where we were ready as a nation to deal with our history and relationship with the First Nations (not that we are all that ready now but I think we have gotten closer). I recall one of my anthropology professor in the mid 90s mentioning in passing that he thought at some point residential schools (and the unmarked graves everybody knew were there) would at some point become an explosive issue for Canadians once those secrets began to be uncovered but we just weren't ready yet as a nation to talk about it.

Maybe that’s why it took a Polish director to do it? Probably. Overall, though violent it isn’t particularly horrific in the sense of excessive gore (don’t worry Hurdy Gurdy Girl you should totally watch it) but a fairly thoughtful & spooky take on issues of violence, pacifism, land rights and belief. I would also say that it is one Graham Greene's finest roles and perhaps the best role of Michael Hogan (likely best known for his role in the Battlestar Galactica reboot) and it is funny to see a small role by Phil Harris (Baloo from Jungle Book fame).

I haven't watched the disc from the Folk Horror set yet but likely will with the commentary (by Shaawano Chad Uran who did a talk called Anthropology of Zombies: Frontiers of the Reanimated West so the commentary should be interesting). The other extras on that disc are pretty good as well. NFB films The Ballad of Crowfoot (one of a few documentary / music video films from the NFB featuring a song by the late great Willie Dunn) and one of the best early documentaries on First Nations land rights activism in Canada, You Are On Indian Land (at least until Alanis Obomsawin's Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance). Both still resonate.

There’s been quite a few recent First Nations film productions that would pair with this one - Edge of the Knife (SG̲aawaay Ḵ'uuna), Night Raiders, Angelique's Isle, Beans (which is about the Kahnestake Resistance), Through Black Spruce, Mohawk.
posted by Ashwagandha at 10:09 PM on January 28, 2022 [9 favorites]

You Are on Indian Land is absolutely worth watching. It's not only valuable to learn about the situation and the protests, but it's not just a snapshot, it's a story. The steady inching of the police from curiosity & courtesy to "OK, you've made your point" to violence is sadly familiar.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:53 AM on February 11, 2022

It is interesting to compare & contrast the police interaction back then in that film with the protestors & their blockade with what is currently going on in Canada at the moment.
posted by Ashwagandha at 9:52 AM on February 11, 2022

Looks like Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance is also on Youtube right now (as are many other NFB films)
posted by trig at 11:44 AM on February 11, 2022

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