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Review: The Seventh Fire

The big names in Jack Pettibone Riccobono’s difficult film The Seventh Fire are Natalie Portman, (who acts as producer) and Terrence Malick, who “presents” the film (and also acts as a producer). Yet the film, which premiered at the Berlinale and is receiving a run at the TIFF Bell Lightbox certainly doesn’t feel like a Natalie Portman film, and aside from a few landscape shots, definitely not like a Malick film, either.

In actuality, the film has a voice all of its own, and quite surprisingly, this voice isn’t one to interfere in the affairs of its protagonists. There is very little hand-holding in The Seventh Fire, either by way of narrative ease, (the film isn’t much for title cars, or talking heads), nor for its leads, (a very violent and scary party is not only uninterrupted, but plunged into even greater danger).

The modus operandi of the film appears to be to place the gang leader Rob, and his young charge Kevin, (at one point it is suggested that they could be brothers, but this is not verified) in an honest way. Therefore, we are treated to scenes of wide-open drug cooking, (and in front of young children, no less), and extreme weather, (this is Minnesota after all), the threat of violence, and an overwhelming bleakness, which serves to befit the situation in which Rob and Kevin find themselves.

In addition to the lack of hand-holding, the film does not offer up an approximation of a passage of time, as the filming appears to have taken place over a number of years. In addition, the film does not offer up any easy answers. Rob and Kevin are seen as an example of the conditions endured by Ojibwe in the rural community, but Riccobono does not seem to want to make them heroes. Nor does he suggest that they are any more or less important for being the subjects of the film.

There is but one hopeful scene, and that’s at the end, in which the camera is pointed upwards, towards the sky. The Seventh Fire may be imminent, though it is tough to tell whether The Seventh Fire prophecy will come true, and at any point soon.

[star v=35]

Monday evening’s screening of The Seventh Fire features a performance by Medicine Song Woman Brenda MacIntyre and will be introduced by director of FIlm Programmes at the TIFF Bell Lightbox Jesse Wente.