Indican Pictures has just released their newest film, “The Incredible 25th Year of Mitzi Bearclaw,” which is getting significant buzz to include numerous accolades at film festivals that have run this year.
The film, which became available on March 23, (DVD April 20) follows the story of Mitzi Bearclaw (portrayed by Morningstar Angeline who appeared in "Drunktown’s Finest"), a 25-year-old Native woman living in Toronto who puts her life on hold to return to her home reserve to care for her ailing mother.
In addition to the lead role being portrayed by Morningstar, the entire cast of Mitzi Bearclaw is Native American/First Nations and includes Ajuawak Kapashesit as Honeyboy Yellowdog (“Outlander,”) Gary Farmer as Oliver Yellowdog, Andrew Martin as Charlie B. (“Fire Song,”) and Billy Merasty as William Bearclaw (“It Chapter Two.”)
The synopsis of the film is as follows:
After Mitzi Bearclaw (Morningstar Angeline, “Drunktown's Finest”), a 25-year-old Indigenous woman that loves fashion design, receives news that her mother is ill, she moves back to her isolated reservation in southwestern Canada to help her father care for their family. Over the span of one year, she reconnects with her parents, reignites a relationship with an old flame, and faces enemies from her childhood. The film showcases Mitzi’s story month by month and jumps between her real life and a dream-like place she goes to connect with her spirit guides. To move forward and discover what matters most, Mitzi reconnects with her roots and faces the enemies of her past.
The Incredible 25th Year of Mitzi Bearclaw - Official 2021 trailer
In an interview with Morningstar and Kapashesit, the two leading characters, the actors discussed their roles in the film.
Morningstar says working during the COVID pandemic on the production was an interesting one. She says she was excited to play the part of Mitzi Bearclaw, who represented her own persona, but at a bit younger age.
“We definitely have things in common. Me and her would handle things way differently, but I think definitely the humorous side of all of that is definitely in there. She reminded me of my younger self. I think I was more Mitzi at maybe 20. It just goes to show where she was growing up and what was kind of going on in her life. I think the humor is definitely the strongest end,” Morningstar said.
Kapashesit grew up similar to his character, Honeyboy Yellowdog, a young Native character with lots of conflict in his life.
“I grew up similarly to Honeyboy. I grew up in an area where there's a lot of boating and a lot of people that just live on islands,” he said. “I grew up on an Island called Moose Factory in Northern Ontario, between there and Minnesota. And so that part of the lifestyle, the boating lifestyle and hanging out with grandpa, that was that it was similar to what I kind of grew up with. But the drama in Honeyboys’ life is something I certainly try to avoid.”
Kapashesit says the process of working on Mitzi Bearclaw was an exciting one, as most larger film productions lack Native representation.
“One of the things that you find in this industry is oftentimes when you get to a lot of the bigger sets and larger productions, you're the only Native person in that production,” he said. “So being on a production like this, where there were a lot of Native peoples, is always really exciting because you get to really connect in ways that you don't always get with other cast members culturally or anything specific like that. So that's always refreshing when you get to do projects with large Native casts, Native crews or with Native leads.”
Angeline says that one of the biggest takeaways is that she could be in a film during a time where there are not many young Indigenous lead roles. She says the story is not just about being immersed in Indigeneity, but more about a young woman making understandable mistakes in her life.
“I think that's enough,” she said. “We can be these people who know our relatives, or who go back to our reservation. Her story isn't really hinged on her Indigeneity. It's just hinged on her relationship with her family and her relationship to her dream of being a hat maker and an artist. I think most Native people, Indigenous people, can relate to that struggle.”
Both Angeline and Kapashesit say that working on the movie with a Native cast and a unique storyline was a welcome change that brought them a sense of inclusion into their film careers thus far.
“We specifically, as Indigenous people, I think we get to a cliff, then we look down and there's just all this empty space and we're not quite sure how to get to the other end cause we haven't seen people we know do it,” Angeline said. “I think Hollywood makes it seem like it's a super-elite world, but really, and this is specifically to Indigenous people. It's a small circle and, I have found, a very supportive circle. So when you're just getting started, there's actually a lot of people and a lot of resources that want to see you succeed as an Indigenous filmmaker and storyteller. There's certainly a lot of rejection within the world, but once you accept that that is a part of the game and everyone's going through that, and it’s not just you, then that gap just becomes so much smaller.”
“A lot of films about Native people, especially when they come from non-Native writers are trauma-based, talking about history, talking about colonization or specific crises that a lot of Indigenous families are facing alcoholism or suicide, things of that nature,” Kapashesit said. “These pop-up time and time again in films with Native people. Those stories do deserve to be told, but those aren't our only stories.”
“The Incredible 25th Year of Mitzi Bearclaw”
Digital HD Release: March 23, 2021
DVD Release: April 20, 2021
Digital Platforms: Apple TV, DirecTV, Google Play, Prime Video, FandangoNOW and more
Run Time: 96 minutes
About Indican Pictures
Indican Pictures is a boutique entertainment label and film distributor. The company was founded in 2004 and has released over 300 films worldwide. In our history, our films have won two Independent Spirit Awards, three FIPRESCI awards, five PRISM awards, two NAACP awards, one ALMA award and two HOT DOCS. Indican is known for releasing challenging material like Boondock Saints (Norman Reedus), Tuvalu (FIPRESCI WINNER), Pure (Keira Knightley), Hybrid (Independent Spirit Award Winner), Only The Brave (internment of Japanese Americans), The Black List V. I-III (HBO Original Series), and Guest Artist (Jeff Daniels), among others. Indican Pictures acquires and distributes a diverse selection of feature films to a broad range of entertainment outlets, including theatrical, home entertainment, television, airlines and streaming platforms.