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RUSTIC ORACLE: 3 ½ STARS. “a powerful story that with unforgettable moments.”

“Rustic Oracle,” a hard-hitting new drama written and directed by Sonia Bonspille Boileau and now on VOD, begins with a trigger warning. “This film contains scenes and themes that may be traumatic or cause anxiety to some individuals.” It is a sobering start to a movie that explores a story experienced by countless Indigenous families who have faced trauma caused by the disappearance of a loved one.

Set in the mid-1990s, the story involves single mother Susan (Carmen Moore) living in a Mohawk community with her two daughters, 8-year-old Ivy (Lake Delisle) and teenager Heather (McKenzie Deer Robinson). The sisters are very close but Heather and her mom regularly bash heads. After one big blow out Heather disappears. She doesn’t pick Ivy up from school and is nowhere to be found. Fearing the worst Susan contacts the police. When they are no help Susan and Ivy begin their own investigation, beginning with an older boy, a suspected drug dealer, Heather was last seen talking to on the schoolground. As they hit the road, following clues throughout Ontario and Quebec, Ivy is plagued by nightmarish visions of her sister’s fate as she tries to make sense of a senseless situation.

There is a naturalism to “Rustic Oracle” which perhaps stems from the origin of the story. Boileau based the film on her teenage experience growing up in Kanehsatake, a settlement on the shore of the Lake of Two Mountains in southwestern Quebec. The realism and heartbreak on display is deeply felt and deeply affecting. The crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women is one of the most important, yet frequently overlooked, social ills in our country. Heather’s story, as seen through the eyes of an innocent, 8-year-old Ivy, is fictional, but it is an important entry into a much larger story. As the film’s end credit sequence tells us, “Although            Indigenous women represent only 4% of the Canadian population, they represent one-quarter of the country’s missing and murdered cases and at least half of all sex trafficking victims. It is currently estimated that we have lost close to 4000 of our Indigenous sisters in the last 40 years.”

Written, directed and produced by an Indigenous team, “Rustic Oracle” is a powerful story that with several unforgettable moments. In one heart-wrenching scene, Ivy sees her sister’s missing posters covered by mundane places to let and lost animal flyers. It’s a small moment that brings crystal clear clarity to years of institutional cover-ups and ignorance. It’s in moments like this that the film is most effective.

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