Adapted from Richard Wagamese's award-winning novel, Stephen Campanelli's moving drama sheds light on the dark history of Canada’s residential schools and the indomitable spirit of our nation's Indigenous peoples.
It is a quintessentially Canadian story. Saul Indian Horse is Ojibwe, from the shores of the Winnipeg River. As a child he is separated from his family by Canada's notorious residential school system, where he and fellow Indigenous students suffer routine physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. Teachers do their best to destroy the children's identities, in the name of the Christian god and the Canadian state. Then, Saul discovers hockey. Only through his passion for the game and his rapidly improving skills does he glimpse a path beyond the horrors that confine him. But is hockey enough to save him?
Richard Wagamese's acclaimed novel Indian Horse tells Saul's story with both urgency and insight. In reviewing it, The Globe and Mail called Wagamese "a master of empathy." Sadly, the author and journalist died earlier this year, as this film adaptation was in production. Directed by Stephen Campanelli, it stars Sladen Pelletier, Forrest Goodluck, and Ajuawak Kapashesit in bold, heartbreaking performances as Saul at ages six, 15, and 22. Together they create a character torn apart by the betrayals that have shaped him, but determined to never give up. As a camera operator, Campanelli has contributed legendary Steadicam shots to Clint Eastwood's films, from The Bridges of Madison County right up through Sully. He also worked on Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, a Special Presentation at this year's Festival.
In this, his second feature as a director, he brings those skills to tell a devastating story. As Wagamese once said: "We change the world, one story at a time."