Zoe Hopkins, writer and director of the new film, Run Woman Run, said she tells stories for Onkwehonwe:we people and to see how far-reaching these stories can go.
“We don’t see enough of ourselves on the big screen,” Hopkins told the TRT. “We don’t see our sense of humour, relationships with the planet and each other — and I think there should be. Any contribution I can make to see more of ourselves in film is so important. We are still in the shallow end of representation.”
The film is an anti-rom-com about Beck — a single mom who has lost her passion for life and for her Mohawk language after the death of her own mother. The film has been racking up awards and nominations since it was first seen and is now slated for theatrical release this month in select Cineplex theatres. There will also be a showing at the Sanderson Centre in Brantford on Mar. 13 at 6:30 p.m. with performances by Derek Miller and Lacey Hill – who both have music on the film’s soundtrack.
The film’s description says Beck’s lifestyle lands her in the hospital where she wakes from a diabetic coma to see she has conjured the ghost of a legendary Six Nations marathon runner Tom Longboat. Longboat’s real-life grandson Will Winnie is in the film as the race announcer for a 10-kilometre run.
“Instead of rallying to take charge of her life, Beck runs away from her problems, alienating her family. Alone and bereft, Beck has to win them back. She finally listens to her ghostly coach who goads her, makes fun of her, and ultimately inspires her to become a runner herself. Beck learns to run, but most importantly she learns to be grateful for her life. She honours the earth and her family with every run, leading her back to her calling: to learn her language,” states Hopkins website.
Hopkins currently lives on Six Nations of the Grand River Territory and said she grew up mostly in Ottawa. She has family both here and in British Columbia so she has always felt like she has two homes and stories to share from each spot.
“My first feature film is an ode to the west coast and a love letter to everything I love about that place. It felt fair to make this film set in Six Nations. There’s nothing like making a film at home. You have resources available that you can’t put a dollar figure on — like having my family cater for the film crew, friends to help move things. It was such a blessing to teach some of the crew things from here,” she said, adding that the film crew had a home-cooked meal every day of filming and even got to try corn soup.
Hopkins said she hopes people from Six Nations who watch the film take time to appreciate how beautiful the territory really is.
“You’re going to see a lot of familiar places. I always forget how beautiful our community is. Once you’ve lived in a place so long you sort of take for granted the beauty and people within it. I can’t wait for people to see how pretty it really is and see where they may connect to the story and where they may see themselves,” said Hopkins.
Hopkins said she does not make films for the awards, but having been nominated for and won so many awards at specifically Indigenous film festivals, it means something extra to her.
“It’s so satisfying. I don’t do this for the awards but because I’ve won several awards at Indigenous film festivals, it shows my whole purpose of reaching people is working,” she said. “It’s even more meaningful when it is at our own festivals.”
Throughout the pandemic, she said it has been a challenge making a connection with her audiences because normally she would have been able to attend screenings and meet people. But COVID didn’t allow for that to happen. Now that restrictions are lifting she is excited to get out there and meet the people watching her films.
Hopkins fell in love with film and filming when she was an extra on the film Black Robe when she was 15 years old. Watching how everything came together excited her.
“I loved watching how the whole film-making machine worked and came together. How a film crew becomes a little family and I fell in love with all the various departments and seeing all the cogs work together. The movie magic was so cool to me and I knew I needed more of it. I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do at that time — but I knew I wanted to exist in that space.”
She said she made this film because she wanted to tell a love story that could make people laugh.
“We’ve worked hard telling stories about trauma and serious topics — which is needed but striking because we are also such a funny people. I just really wanted to tell a story about love that could make people laugh at the same time. This does both of those things. It gets into serious issues but does it in a more holistic way. It makes people laugh and think and experience.”
Hopkins said she wanted the family of Tom Longboat’s blessing before she made the film. She interviewed them as background for the film and learned a lot more about him than she knew before.
“It was interesting to hear from his family how humble he was. It seemed like running was just something he did — not for the prizes or attention. Even if he wasn’t necessarily the faster runner in the community, he was the one who ended up doing it. That’s how I feel about what I do. I don’t feel like I’m the best director or writer. I happen to have won some prizes by making some films but it’s just what I do. I’ve never quit. It’s what I’ve done. And that’s how I’ve approached it. I feel like I could relate to that part of him.”
Run Woman Run has won and/or been nominated for:
Audience Choice Award, imagineNATIVE Film Festival – WINNER
Moon Jury Award, imagineNATIVE Film Festival – WINNER
Best Film, American Indian Film Festival – WINNER
Best Actress: Dakota Ray Hebert (Beck), American Indian Film Festival – WINNER
Best Supporting Actor: Asivak Koostachin (Tom Longboat) – WorldFest Houston – WINNER
Stars to Watch: Asivak Koostachin (Tom Longboat), Whistler Film Festival – WINNER
Best Director, American Indian Film Festival – NOMINATED
Best Actor: Asivak Koostachin (Tom Longboat), American Indian Film Festival – NOMINATED
Best Supporting Actress: Jayli Wolf (Jess), American Indian Film Festival – NOMINATED
Best Supporting Actor: Lorne Cardinal (Len), American Indian Film Festival – NOMINATED
Rising Star Award: Sladen Peltier (Eric), WorldFest Houston – NOMINATED