FilmRise, Canal+ Docs Team to Distribute Indigenous Crime Doc ‘Missing From Fire Trail Road’

New York-based film and television studio and streaming network FilmRise  and Canal+ Docs, the French TV Network part of Canal+, have teamed up to release the newest documentary from director Sabrina Van Tassel (The Silenced Walls, The State of Texas vs. Melissa) — Missing From Fire Trail Road.

FilmRise will have worldwide distribution rights, all media, excluding France and French speaking territories overseas and in Africa, which Canal+ Docs will hold.

The film delves into the case of Mary Ellen Johnson-Davis, a Native-American woman who disappeared in 2020, and exposes how hundreds of indigenous women continue to go missing in the United States, perpetuating transgenerational trauma on Indian reservations. On Nov. 25, 2020, Johnson-Davis disappeared from the Tulalip tribe, a small and peaceful community near Seattle. Her case highlights a harsh and shameful truth: Native-American women go missing at a higher rate than any other population in the United States. Most of these crimes go unsolved and are committed by non-natives. Complex tribal jurisdictional issues and lack of full reporting and accounting of missing indigenous people have created legal loopholes on Indian reservations. The situation has turned reservations into hunting grounds for serial rapists and large-scale sex-trafficking.

“Sabrina is a brilliant filmmaker whose documentaries bring awareness to topics and subjects that are often overlooked, but are no less important,” Max Einhorn, SVP of acquisitions and co-productions at FilmRise, said in a statement. “We are honored to be working with Sabrina on her follow-up to State of Texas vs. Melissa, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to be collaborating with Canal+. The atrocities committed against indigenous communities must become a mainstream issue so we can bring about change.” 

“After acquiring The State of Texas vs Melissa, we supported Sabrina’s incredible impact campaign which helped save Melissa Lucio’s life,” Christine Cauquelin, group director of documentaries for  Canal+, said in a statement. “Today, we are thrilled to be on board of with her new film. Thousands of Native American women go missing in the U.S. in utter indifference, and it is time this urgent matter be brought to the table. We are proud to accompany Sabrina, along with FilmRise, on this important documentary.”

“I feel compelled to expose these stories of missing indigenous women who are forgotten and whose cases never receive any public attention,” Van Tassel said in a statement. “More than a crime doc, this film will explore how the traumas have passed on from generation to generation since first contact between natives and European settlers. I feel extremely lucky to have both FilmRise and Canal+ Docs supporting me on this project.”

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Van Tassel is known for her documentaries focusing on social justice and political matters. Her 2020 feature The State of Texas vs. Melissa led to numerous petitions for a stay of execution for Melissa Luccio, who was to be the first Hispanic woman executed in Texas.

Doc ‘Being Thunder’ Headed to DVD and Digital Jan. 10 From Film Movement

The documentary Being Thunder will be released on DVD and digital Jan. 10 from Film Movement.

The film, an Official Selection of Frameline, NewFest, The American Indian Film Festival and the Inside Out Film Festival, introduces the Native American role of a two-spirit person, who embodies masculine and feminine qualities through many gender expressions informed by Indigenous traditions and community roles. The film focuses on the life and advocacy of Sherente Mishitahin Harris, a two-spirit genderqueer teenager from Rhode Island’s Narragansett tribe. 

Wearing traditional female dress, Sherente joyfully performs a traditional female dance in competition at Powwows around New England, but not everyone accepts Sherente’s inclusion in the “girls” category. Being Thunder is the stirring story of Sherente’s persistence, aided by love and unconditional support from peers and family. From facing biased Powwow judges to tackling college applications, Sherente shines through as a role model for youth worldwide to go against the grain and live their authentic selves with tenacity and grace.

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French filmmaker Stephanie Lamorré quietly documents Sherente’s life and family interactions over the course of several years, revealing the struggles and triumphs faced by the determined teen courageously navigating questions of identity, expression, and how to be one’s authentic self.

Being Thunder is a rare example of a three-dimensional, Indigenous LGBTQ+ BIPOC story, demonstrating the need for far more on screen representation, according to a Film Movement release.


FilmRise Acquires U.S. Rights to Feature ‘Beans’

FilmRise, a New York-based film and television studio and streaming network, has acquired U.S. distribution rights to the full-length feature film Beans.

The coming-of-age story about a 12-year-old Mohawk girl forced to grow up fast during the 1990 Indigenous uprising known as The Oka Crisis was awarded second runner up of the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival and is an Official Selection at Berlinale 2021. Beans is directed by Tracey Deer, an Indigenous woman whose own experiences from the crisis inspired her to write this impactful movie.

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Beans is a perfect addition to our library of films showcasing important stories from underrepresented populations,” Danny Fisher, CEO of FilmRise, said in a statement. “Deer has created a powerful, eye-opening perspective about an historic event that shook the Indigenous community of Quebec exactly 30 years ago.”

“We are thrilled with all the honors that the Berlinale, TIFF and others have given us, and now Tracey’s voice and vision will be carried in the U.S. with FilmRise,” added producer Anne-Marie Gélinas of EMAFilms in a statement. “Our film’s story is so relevant to the times that we are currently living.”

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The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, where Deer won the TIFF Emerging Talent Award and later was selected to TIFF Canada’s Top Ten. The film went on to the Vancouver Film Festival where it won Best Canadian Film and Most Popular Canadian Narrative. Beans has also played at the Sao Paulo Film Festival in Brazil and the Los Cabos Film Festival in Mexico.


In the film, Tekehentahkhwa (played by Kiawentiio) goes by her quirky nickname, Beans. She is a loving big sister to her constant sidekick, Ruby (Violah Beauvais), as they play in the woods and carefully avoid the rough and tough kids of their neighborhood on the Mohawk reservation of Kahnawà:ke, Quebec. When a peaceful protest at a neighboring reservation turns into an armed stand-off to protect a burial ground from being desecrated for a golf course expansion, Beans’ community quickly joins the battle in what becomes known as the Oka Crisis. Overnight, her community is cut off from the outside world. Beans seeks out the toughest girl she knows, April (Paulina Alexis), to help her transform into the brave Mohawk warrior that she needs to be to survive.  She gains acceptance with the cool clique, but that doesn’t prepare her for the racism and violence she confronts as the conflict escalates. Unable to cope, she descends into a dark, rage-filled existence focused on revenge. It’s not until her reckless actions put everyone she cares about into peril that she wakes up to what’s really important in her fragile world.

Netflix Announces Pact With Canadian Indigenous Filmmakers

Netflix June 11 at the 2019 Banff World Media Festival announced a partnership aimed at assisting indigenous filmmakers in Canada.

The SVOD pioneer is working with imagineNative, The Indigenous Screen Office (ISO) and Wapikoni Mobile on programs ranging from screenwriting to apprenticeships, joining 11 existing programs Netflix has funded to guide content creators from underrepresented communities.

“Indigenous communities in Canada are rich with unique stories,” Stéphane Cardin, director of public policy, Netflix Canada, said in a statement. “Netflix is proud to help launch these three programs, which will reach indigenous communities across the country.”

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Canada was Netflix’s first foreign expansion in 2010 and now accounts for more than 7 million subscribers.

Over the next three-and-a-half years, imagineNative will undertake or expand activities aimed at indigenous screenwriters, directors and producers through its institute department.

“This funding is a significant investment in opportunities for indigenous directors, producers, and screenwriters in Canada, and marks one of the largest sponsorships in [our] history,” said Jason Ryle, executive director of imagineNative.

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The ISO-Netflix Production Mentorship and Apprenticeship Program will provide second phase support for projects that may have received assistance through programs offered by imagineNative, Hot Docs, Banff World Media Festival or Whistler Film Festival, among others.

The program will include two streams: Key Creative Apprenticeships and Cultural Mentorships for directors, producers, screenwriters and showrunners.

“ISO spent the last year in consultations with Indigenous creators and this fund responds to their expressed need for new funding opportunities that will advance work and career opportunities, as well as allow them to follow protocols and practices that are central to Indigenous ways of working,” said Jesse Wente, director of the Indigenous Screen Office.

With the Netflix partnership, Wapikoni will be able to coordinate emerging filmmakers, organize opportunities and structure a program of both continuing education and professional coaching.

Focuses include mediation, dialogue, awareness, education and building bridges between nations, peoples and generations.

“The support from Netflix will allow us to continue to foster narrative sovereignty and cinematographic excellence,” said Joannette, from the Pessamit First Nation of Quebec, and executive director at Wapikoni.

Netflix’s support of these programs comes from its fund to develop the next generation of Canadian creators and talent, focused on underrepresented communities in the screen industry.

Other partnerships include the Inside Out Film FestivalRIDM (Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal), and the Alliance des producteurs francophones du Canada (APFC).