Where the Spirit Lives

Watch Where the Spirit Lives

"A moving tribute to a young girl's courage and indomitable spirit..."
  • 1989
  • 1 hr 36 min
  • 7.5  (288)

Where the Spirit Lives is a powerful Canadian drama film from 1989 directed by Bruce Pittman. It tells the story of an indigenous girl named Amelia, who is forced to attend a residential school in the 1930s. The movie sheds light on the Canadian government's gruesome legacy of residential schooling, which has traumatized generations of indigenous people.

The central character of the movie, Amelia, is played by Michelle St. John, who portrays her with brilliance and sensitivity. Amelia is a spunky and independent girl with a deep connection to her cultural roots. However, when she is taken away from her family and sent to the residential school, her whole world turns upside down. The school is run by a group of white Christian priests, who are determined to 'civilize' the indigenous children and strip them of their cultural identity. They give Amelia a new name, Maisie, and force her to wear Western clothes and speak English. They also subject her to severe physical and emotional abuse, which leaves her scarred for life.

Despite the harsh treatment, Amelia finds solace in her friendships with other indigenous girls, especially Sarah, played by Kim Bruisedhead Fox, and Emma, played by Marianne Jones. They share stories of home and their collective struggle to survive the school. The movie depicts their friendship with warmth and humor, which adds to the overall emotional power of the movie.

The movie also has a strong supporting cast. Billy Merasty portrays Amelia's father with great emotional depth. He is torn apart by his inability to protect his daughter and driven to despair by the brutal regime of the residential school. Robert Wisden plays Father Andrews, the head priest of the school, with conviction. He is the epitome of the colonial-era missionary, blinded by his own prejudices and determined to 'save' the indigenous people from themselves. Peter Kelly Gaudreault plays one of the male teachers, Mr. Foster, who gains Amelia's trust and helps her in her quest for freedom.

The movie's narrative is deeply moving and stays with the viewer long after the movie has ended. The story's structure is nonlinear, which adds to its complexity. It jumps back and forth between Amelia's past and her present as a grown-up woman. In the present, she is shown attending a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and recounting her experiences in the residential school, which adds a layer of depth to the story.

The movie's cinematography is magnificent, and the Canadian wilderness is portrayed in all its beauty. The music, composed by Eric Robertson, complements the visuals and helps to convey the emotions running through the movie.

In conclusion, Where the Spirit Lives is a must-watch movie for anyone interested in Canadian history, indigenous culture, or just a great story. The movie captures the horror of residential schools and the resilience of indigenous people in the face of oppression. It is a story of friendship, hope, and human dignity, which is sure to leave a lasting impression on the viewer.

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  • Release Date
  • Runtime
    1 hr 36 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    7.5  (288)