Adam Mazo and Ben Pender-Cudlip
IFF Boston, Seattle, New Haven Docs, Provincetown, Woods Hole, Camden, Vancouver, Bend
Maine sets up a truth and reconciliation commission to address systemic crimes against its Native American population.
In 2012, inspired by the idea of restorative justice demonstrated in South Africa after apartheid, the state of Maine formed a truth and reconciliation commission, an opportunity for victims of injustice to share their stories with the perpetrators. In this specific case, the commission was designed to reckon with the historical treatment of Native Americans, including the forced removal of Native children from their families and placement in foster homes, efforts to assimilate them within white American society. Though some are hesitant to use the terms, the result was cultural genocide, with families fractured, children losing language and tradition, and, in some case, their innocence, as some suffered from physical and sexual abuse during the process. Mazo and Pender-Cudlip detail the harrowing process of the commission as indigenous people find the courage to tell their stories, while also exploring the conflicts that arise among its different stakeholders. While the former is far more affecting than the latter, which at times overburdens the film, both elements are stark reminders of the damage done, not only by overt racism, but by even seemingly well-intentioned actions informed by white privilege.