The young Ojibwa girl was one of thousands of Aboriginal kids during the 20th century the government snatched from their homes and forcibly placed in residential schools in a grotesque effort to assimilate Natives into Euro-Canadian society. The house-of-horrors terror experienced by these children—from culture shock, profound sexual and physical abuse, hunger, humiliation and homesickness—seems incredible. But the tragedy is that it wasn’t.
It was real, it was prevalent, and the fallout of what happened sears Canadian Aboriginal communities to this day. The legacy that remains, says Nadia McLaren, is “the restlessness of an ancient sadness.”
It is these words that frame this first-time Ojibwa filmmaker‘s documentary, Muffins for Granny, an homage to McLaren’s grandmother whose inner pain was never fully understood. Until now.
If this documentary does deliver a "gut-punch"--if it makes us truly feel Theresa McGraw's pain--it would be a rare achievement. Most documentaries are less involving and moving than their creators think they are.
That's why fiction is often the best way to explore an issue like this one. When a story makes you care about its characters, then it can deliver a gut-punch.