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Building Bridges & Changing The World Through Storytelling With Tracey Deer of 'Beans'

Updated: Mar 29, 2022

'Beans' the movie with Tracey Deer

Beans the movie with Tracey Deer

There is no denying that we have progressed remarkably as a society. But on a closer look you will realize that nothing much has changed with regard to societal issues that matter. The problems we were fighting for in the past remain a struggle in the present. Indeed, there is still so much for us to do. But there is hope — the bridges are under construction, and we have a part to play in building them. One significant way to spark action and change is through storytelling.

In this episode, Mohawk filmmaker Tracey Deer joins us to talk about her new award-winning movie "Beans". Tracey Deer delves into bridges under construction, healing through storytelling, and changing the world. She talks about persistence, forgiveness, and how we can turn our anger into something positive. We also chat about coming-of-age, transgenerational trauma, and the importance of listening through the film.

If you want to know more about the story behind Beans the movie from Tracey Deer, this episode is for you!

3 reasons why you should listen to the full episode:

  1. Get a sneak peek of the film, Beans.

  2. Learn why listening is key to building bridges.

  3. Discover the impact of discrimination and transgenerational trauma and how to navigate them from the film.


Episode Highlights

[06:21] Beans’ Film Festival Run

  • Tracey Deer says the run has been an amazing empathy bomb.

  • Beans premiered at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival.

  • Tracey loves getting praises from critics, but she found winning the People’s Choice Awards more valuable.

Tracey Deer: “I want to change the world through storytelling. And so the way you do that is to get into the hearts and minds of everyday people who give you that hour and a half or that two hours to sit down and go on a journey with what you've created.” - Click Here to Tweet This
  • Listen to the full podcast to know more about the awards Beans garnered!

[08:05] Winning Awards and Getting Recognition

  • Tracey Deer lines up all the awards she has won in her 20+ years of career in front of her office desk.

  • Looking at the awards allows her to look back and remember the journey for each film.

  • Tracey Deer lived through the Oka crisis. Being a filmmaker felt like an impossible dream then.

  • Tracey Deer came from a community where you don’t put up with “no.”

Tracey: “Being told by society, by individuals that my dream was impossible, it was stupid—it made me even more determined to accomplish it. And so when I do see these awards, it reminds me of everything that I've accomplished and everything I've worked for and all those people, all those naysayers, that I've proven them wrong.” - Click Here to Tweet This

[11:17] Building Bridges

  • Tracey Deer says that the bridge is under construction.

  • There are people at the front lines pushing for the construction to happen.

  • The film tries to reach the undecided people standing on the ground watching the bridge go up.

[12:30] Dreaming to be a Filmmaker at 12

  • Her family couldn’t afford the portable VCR. Instead, her father would rent a pile of VCRs from a video store on the weekends.

  • Movies became Tracey’s safe place to go on journeys, dream, and feel her feelings.

  • She kept switching what she wanted to be when she grew up based on the most recent movie she watched.

  • She realized that she would experience all the stories and inspire others if she made movies.

  • She started writing scripts and saving up to rent big video camcorders to film. Tracey has been looking at the world through a viewfinder ever since.

[15:25] Dancing Between Documentary and Narrative

  • It was a deliberate decision to do a fiction film about the event instead of a documentary.

  • Tracey spent most of her career doing documentaries.

  • She wanted the audience to experience the event through a child’s eyes.

  • Telling the story from a child's point of view is different from interviewing adults reflecting on their childhood.

  • The documentary only reaches a certain type of audience who actively seeks it; fiction reaches the public.

[17:15] Finding Success in the Transition

  • The success of the film was surreal for Tracey.

  • The film’s story speaks to Tracey’s coming of age.

  • From the little girl who felt invisible 31 years ago, she now has a platform and an empowered voice.

[19:54] Finding Hope Amidst Indifference

  • Tune in the full episode as David talks about the book 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act!

  • We still have so much work to do.

  • The events in the movie took place 31 years ago. But the hatred and indifference towards indigenous communities from that time is still happening across the country.

  • Tracey is infuriated that the indifference is incredibly current, but she remains hopeful from the growth she has seen.

  • There are incredible allies who take action in their way. But there are also people paralyzed by not knowing and reaching out to know what they can do.

[21:11] The Key is Listening

  • It's more about listening than giving ideas on how to help.

  • A lot of people are working hard on constructing the bridge.

  • It’s better to be hopeful than feel the heaviness from looking at how much there is to do.

  • We’re not close to societal change yet.

[24:14] How Autobiographical in the Film

  • Some of the events Beans experienced and roller coaster feelings were direct recreation from Tracey’s coming of age journey.

  • All the historical events in the film happened, but Tracey was not at every single one of them.

Tracey: “You don't have to experience a race riot to feel the repercussions of a race riot.” - Click Here to Tweet This

[26:24] Getting Beyond Hatred

  • One of the things Tracey wanted to show in the film is how this hatred is infectious, consuming, and destructive.

  • The disease of hatred destroys families, people, and society.

  • You either hold on to the hatred, and it tears you apart. Or, you lash out and spread it to the next person.

  • Being strong enough to stop the cycle is the first step.

  • We need to find our way out of anger and on to forgiveness. We have to determine how to use anger to guide us instead of perpetuating it.

[30:21] Tackling Transgenerational Trauma

  • Transgenerational trauma is the underlying theme of the movie.

  • It’s about getting out of the dark and finding a way to the light from experiencing trauma.

  • Trauma doesn’t have to define you and guide your actions.

  • Letting trauma pull you down is allowing hatred to win.

  • Reconciliation needs to start with the self. Only then can you be successful with healing and building relationships with others.

[33:56] Showing Beans in Schools

  • Tracey has hopes for Beans to become a mandatory school viewing.

  • She has thought of the film as a film for adults. But she realized that children are living through the themes and issues it tackles.

[36:16] No Race, Just the Human Race

  • The archival pillar in the film is the road forward.

About Tracey

Tracey Deer is a Mohawk filmmaker, producer, writer, and director. In addition, she is the founder of Mohawk Princess Pictures, a production company for independent short work. Tracey began her professional career with CanWest Broadcasting and later joined Rezolution Pictures.

Tracey was the first Mohawk woman to win a Gemini Award for Club Native. She co-directed the Best Documentary Award-winning documentary One More River: The Deal that Split the Cree. She also wrote, directed, and filmed the 2005 Alanis Obomsawin Best Documentary Award-winning Mohawk Girls. In 2009, she won the Don Haig Award as an emerging filmmaker with Brett Gaylor for overall career achievement as an emerging filmmaker.

Her movie, Beans, debuted at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival. The movie won second runner-up for the People's Choice Award. The movie has reaped many accolades, including the 9th Canadian Screen Awards Best Picture and the John Dunning Best First Feature Film Award. 'Beans' the movie also won the Directors Guild of Canada Discovery Award and the Writers Guild of Canada Best Feature Film.

Want to know more about Tracey and 'Beans' the movie? You can reach her through her website, Instagram, and Twitter.

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