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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 12.05.16] Canada drama crime

Shawnouk is a young man living with his family in an Atikamekw community in southwestern Quebec. He's not a bad kid, spending long parts of his day hanging out with his sister and her baby and with friends, but he's also bored and when he gets an offer for adventure and the opportunity to make some quick cash, he finds himself drawn into criminality.

Though Beyond the Streets is a great exploration of one man's redemption, Chloé Leriche's directorial debut is also a fascinating look at the Atikamekw people and a celebration of tradition.

Shot on location with non-professional actors and mostly in the native language of atikamekw, Leriche's movie is as much a lesson in history and sociology as it is a dramatic film but it works as a document of a people and culture by extension of the director's choice to shoot the film with the people, in the places and the language she is exploring.

Though the opportunity to see some of the traditions of the Atikamekw people is a definite pull, Before the Streets is effective because it's a beautifully told story of redemption with a great central performance from Rykko Bellemare. Bellemare goes from cocky to remorseful teen over the movie's running time and we see the change slowly take place. His performance is soulful and intimate and the fact that an untrained actor brings such gravitas to the performance is a testament to both the writing and Leriche's instincts as a director.

Leriche takes us into the villages and introduces communities, individuals and traditions that are concentrated on family and helping one another. In the process of Shawnouk's redemption, we see the theme of caring extended to and by strangers simply because they need the help and Shawnouk's struggle to overcome the guilt of his actions is a powerful and often painful journey.

Before the Streets is only the latest in a recent swell of stories about indigenous people. The difference with Leriche's story is that it's not a remembrance of history but rather a look at modern life on the reservation with all its struggles and triumphs on full display and it does so through the dramatic lens.

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