Everybody knows TIFF is the place to be for groundbreaking new content. This year they gave Michelle Latimer the chance to present two projects she’s worked on. The first one, ‘Inconvenient Indian‘ – a documentary that explores the cultural colonization of Indigenous peoples in North America – was previously reviewed by us (review can be found HERE) – and just won both the People’s Choice Documentary Award and the Amplify Voices Award for Best Canadian Feature Film. Her other project is something completely different. Trickster is a supernatural thriller mini-series that follows an Indigenous teen named Jared who struggles to keep his dysfunctional family afloat when a stranger named Wade ruptures the balance and myth, while magic and monsters slowly infiltrate his life.

Latimer is the director and co-creator of this unique CBC series. Her and Tony Elliott (‘ARQ‘) turn the bestselling trilogy of novels by the award-winning Haisla and Heiltsuk writer Eden Robinson, into an Indigenous Gothic coming-of-age story unlike any you’ve ever seen. Trickster eventually might get compared to Riverdale or Supernatural, but even though it has a similar vibe to both of those shows, it feels more mature with a dark sense of humour, great special effects and terrific acting all across the board.

The trickster is a devilish rule breaker in myth and folklore. For the Haisla, their trickster is Wee’git, and portrayed as The Raven. They are most often foolish and childlike troublemakers. Some tricksters can be harmless, others heroes, and still others even cruel or selfish. In Haisla culture, the Raven is the most powerful of mythical creatures. His appetites include lust, curiosity, and an irrepressible desire to interfere and change things, and to play tricks on the world and its creatures. 

Jared (Joel Oulette – ‘Monkey Beach‘) holds down an after-school job in a fast food joint, where he sells “extra salty fries” aka ecstasy, on the side, to support his separated parents – his mom Maggie (the terrific Crystle Lightning – ‘Diverted Eden‘), who self-medicates an undiagnosed mental illness while partying 24/7, and unemployable dad Phil (Craig Lauzon – ‘Royal Canadian Air Farce‘), who’s struggling with addiction. When Jared starts seeing strange things — talking ravens, skin monsters, shapeshifters — appear at locations he visits on the daily, he slowly starts losing grip on reality while trying to find answers. There’s secrets surrounding his birth, the place he grew up in and those who live in it. What first seems like hallucinations, quickly become all too real when supernatural forces invade his world.

The first two episodes of Trickster make you want to bingewatch the entire series, which holds an electrifying score by Todor Kobakov (‘Cardinal‘) that sounds like Disasterpeace’s anxiety inducing work in ‘It Follows‘, clever editing and breathtaking scenery. I can only hope international audiences get the chance to experience CBC’s newest mini-series in the near future, because this is something worth checking out. Latimer is a pro at Indigenous storytelling, and that translates to what’s being shown on screen.

Trickster is a spirited coming-of-age story filled with ancient magic, that’s made with respect to the myth and Indigenous traditions. Latimer knows her craft and by putting Indigenous talent front and center, she creates a wide new world for first-rate artists that are waiting to share original stories with all of us.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

TRICKSTER premieres Wednesday, October 7 at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT) on CBC and CBC Gem

TIFF20 Review – ‘Trickster’ Episodes 1-2

Reviewed online (as part of Toronto International Film Festival), September 20, 2020. Rating: TBC. Running time: 6 x 42 min.

PRODUCTION: A Kew Media Group release for a CBC and CBC Gem presentation of a Sienna Films production. Producer: Sienna Films Inc.. Executive producers: Jennifer Kawaja, Julia Sereny, Michelle Latimer, Tony Elliott.

CREW: Director: Michelle Latimer. Screenplay: Michelle Latimer, Tony Elliott. Editing: Kye Meechan, Katie Chipperfield. Cinematography: Steve Cosens. Score: Todor Kobakov.

WITH: Joel Oulette, Crystle Lightning, Kalani Queypo, Anna Lambe, Nathan Alexis, Craig Lauzon, Joel Thomas Hynes, Gail Maurice, Kirsten Johnson, Darren Hynes.

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