VIFF ’21 Review: ‘Bootlegger’ is a gorgeously shot story of findings one’s place

A young woman returns to her small, rural community and begins to effect change. It’s a setup as old as the movies themselves and one we love to return to because so much can be mined from this kind of setup. In Bootlegger, a young woman returns to the reserve she called home as a child and begins a campaign to open up the sale of alcohol, free the community from some amount of the oppression they face.

It’s a gorgeously shot and very Canadian story.

Mani (Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs) is the young woman in question. As she returns from Montreal to her Algonquin home, she comes into almost immediate conflict with the locals: the father of her childhood friend who holds her responsible for his grief (Jacques Newashish), a white woman who traffics in alcohol (Pascale Bussières), and the band council that turns a blind eye to make a profit.

Jacobs does an excellent job as Mani, and there is no point in the film when you don’t believe that she is torn between her two homes and her past and present. She is an engaging performer, and it helps that she has good material to work with. Co-writer and director Caroline Monnet has crafted a compelling story about the effects of alcohol on a small community and what taking charge of one’s destiny can mean for a person or group. Add in some shots of the gorgeous Quebec winter, and you have yourself a winner.

Bootlegger played as part of the 2021 Vancouver International Film Festival and the 2021 Montreal Festival du Nouveau Cinema.

Festival du Nouveau Cinema

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