An elderly Cree man decides that before he dies he must travel via Greyhound from his remote Indian Reservation in Northern Canada, into the southern United States to visit the grave of Hank Williams. Along the way he and his travelling companion, a 17 yr old nephew, are picked up as a regional human-interest story in the US press. News of their growing celebrity causes a stir back home among an eclectic cast of locals; including a chief running desperately for re-election, a young girl trying desperately to find a prom date, a teacher trying desperately to help, and a social worker trying desperately to get a transfer. Written by
Forget Tom Cruise and his invading aliens - my pick for THE movie to see this summer is "Hank Williams - First Nation".
Calgarian Aaron James Sorenson wrote and directed the film, all the music was done by local artists and the cast is made up of local actors, including Gordon Tootosis - whom many of you will recognize as "Albert" from North of 60 and also having appeared with Brad Pitt and Sir Anthony Hopkins in Legends of the Fall. Sammy Simon does a phenomenal job as the Radio Announcer, providing a great deal of HONEST laughter.
When I say "Honest" laughter, what I mean is that, unlike many of the "slick, high budget, Hollywood blockbusters" - this film doesn't rely on laughs generated by potty jokes, self-depreciation and at the expense of others.
Hank Williams, First Nation is a story based on characters that Mr Sorenson grew to know. The story itself is about a family, a community, a dream. Uncle Martin, a lifelong Hank Williams fan, has decided that perhaps Hank isn't dead after all. He decides to travel to Nashville to see Hank's grave for his own eyes. His younger brother sends his grandson Jacob with Uncle Martin not only to keep the oldest Fox family member company, but to teach his grandson a little about the world. The two become celebrities in the U.S., being interviewed by small town newspapers and having their picture taken to be posted at diners along the way.
Meanwhile, at home, Jacob's sister, Sara is facing her pending graduation and all the emotional ups and downs of the big event that we all faced. Her boyfriend is a big schmuck, her brother's best friend has a huge crush on her and she is a sure bet for valedictorian. On top of it all, her absentee mother, whom Jacob has only seen once when he was a toddler, may be coming for a visit.
The other characters have issues of their own to deal with and they do so as we all do. Mr Sorenson has created some of the most REAL characters I've encountered in film since Fargo and Beautiful Girls. They don't win the lotto, they don't drive insanely expensive cars, they aren't unbelievably beautiful and spend nights having sex we can only envy. They don't have some sort of "lightbulb" moment and solve every problem they've ever had. They laugh. They cry. They get up every day and head off to work when they'd rather stay in bed. They have car starters that don't work. They look forward to the weekly Radio Bingo games. They have crappy winter weather. What you see is what you get. In short, I LOVED these characters. I cared about them. I wanted to see what would happen to them. I STILL wonder how things will work out for them.
As a writer, Mr Sorenson has accomplished what many writers strive for. He created characters with heart and soul and depth. Some of the cinematography will knock your socks off. The film captures the beauty of the Canadian landscape which is often overlooked in Canadian cinema.
I laughed. I laughed a LOT. Not just a little smile here and there or a chuckle kept to myself. I experienced honest, out loud, unabashed laughter the likes of which I've not experienced in a film in some time. My advice, grab a friend and go see this film. You won't regret it.
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