A still from the film Monkey Beach which receives its world premiere at this year's Vancouver International Film Festival.
A still from the film Monkey Beach which receives its world premiere at this year's Vancouver International Film Festival.

The all-Canadian movie Monkey Beach, directed by L. Sarah Todd, celebrates its world premiere at this year’s VIFF. Adapted from Eden Robinson’s award-winning novel of the same name, it’s packed with insights and wisdom, all worthy of attention.

The opening is a little laboured and confusing, even inaudible at times, but the film soon takes off and soars like an eagle all the way to and beyond the final credits.

The compelling story follows a young Haisla woman, Lisa, from her apartment in East Vancouver, where she’s spent two years trying to escape disturbing visions, back to her ancestral home in a Kitamaat village.

The North Pacific ocean and surrounding forests provide a rich backdrop to Lisa’s quest to protect her younger brother from a death foretold by spirits. She’s led by the ghosts of her empathetic grandmother, irreverent uncle and angered cousin who nudges her into taking action.

There is an inevitable conflict between those who adhere to the old ways and others who follow the new. But common sense, love, and respect prevail, without being cheesy.

The soundscape is spectacular with haunting music composed by Jesse Zubot and Russell Wallace, powerful drumming and terrific mob bounce (Indigenous influenced hip hop) by the Haisla’s own Snotty Nose Rez Kids, among others.

Shuswap-born Grace Dove gives a beautifully observed performance as Lisa. She’s supported by an excellent cast, from twinkling Tina Lameman as her grandmother, Nathaniel Arcand as her father and Adam Beach as her irreverent uncle down to young Oliver Tru Sison as her little brother Jimmy.

Monkey Beach is not to be missed.

Monkey Beach screens as part of the digital offerings at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival from September 28 through October 7. Visit viff.org for tickets and information.