Life has been a beach lately for Beaver Lake Cree Nation actress Tina Lameman.
Monkey Beach, ocean beach ... and Adam Beach.
Lameman, an Alberta Motion Picture Industry of Alberta award-winner, is one of the stars of the just-released Canadian film Monkey Beach. The film, about a young Indigenous woman growing up with spiritual and supernatural powers, was filmed along the shores of the Pacific Ocean in Kitimat, and in the traditional lands of the Haisla People on the northwest coast of British Columbia. The film features acclaimed actor Adam Beach from Smoke Signals, Flags Of Our Fathers and Windtalkers, and Nathanial Arcand, known for numerous television and feature film appearances. The lead role was played by Grace Dove — from 2015s The Revanent where she played opposite Leonardo DiCaprio. Lameman plays Dove's grandmother in the movie that follows the character from childhood to adulthood.
Working with Dove, Beach, Arcand and a largely Indigenous crew on a screen adaptation of the 2000 book written by acclaimed Haisla author Eden Robinson — on sets steeped with the cultural and spiritual heritage of the Haisla people — was as supernatural as the movie's theme, said Lameman.
"It was a great meeting of culture. There was native talent from across Canada. It was a real Indigenous production," she said. "It is our people telling our own stories."
This film's title is based on the actual stories from the BC coastal people and their spiritual beliefs in b’gwus — Sasquatch creatures they believe come down from the mountains to visit the ocean. The story itself, says Lameman is about belief and resolve, human spirit, family and sacrifice.
The movie saw its world premiere release on Thursday at the Vancouver International Film Festival and is available to BC viewers on digital release through the VFF website. Monkey Beach is also one of the selections at the Calgary International Film Festival, and saw its Alberta premiere on Monday. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, both festivals are offering in-theatre and online ticket purchases.
Lameman hasn't seen the entire movie yet. Although filming wrapped up almost two years ago, its release was slowed down in post-production, and the local actress said in most cases, actors only see the portions of the film they were involved with shooting before it is released. Lameman says she does keep in contact with the other actors from the film through social media — and phone calls in the case of Arcand who is her cousin — but is disappointed that the coronavirus pandemic halted the chance for a reunion at an in-person premiere showing.
On working with Beach, Lameman said the opportunity to work with the Manitoba-born Dog Creek First Nation native was ... well ...
"Are you kidding! He was great. Awesome. He is very helpful to the younger actors that were there, and he was really generous with his knowledge to help."
A well-known screen name herself because of her AMPIA-award winning leading role performance in the APTN-produced, four-season series Mixed Blessings, Lameman hopes Monkey Beach leads to more feature film roles. And while she has primarily played roles meant for Indigenous actors, she hopes to see more and more mainstream choices for herself and other Indigenous actors.
"I think what we want as Indigenous actors is to be part of the mainstream — I want to be in a role playing a woman in her 40s or 50s, not necessarily an Indigenous woman. I want to play a role, and not always a Native role," she said, although admitting with a laugh that her character in Monkey Beach is a perfect fit. "I guess I'm in the Kookum zone, and that's very comfortable for me."
On Friday, Lameman said she was looking forward to receiving her advance copy of the movie, which was expected to arrive from the production company on Saturday. She planned on watching the movie with her grandchildren at home in Beaver Lake. In the coming weeks, Lameman said she would like to see a community-wide opportunity to view the movie. Her initial plan is to show the film through a COVID-friendly drive-in event where admission sales were used to support a local charity — but plans are still ongoing.
Lameman, who describes herself as an office worker when she's not acting, says she is also starting on a writing projcect.
To see more about Lamemand with links to her screen history, click HERE.
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