Where the Spirit Lives
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|Where the Spirit Lives|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Bruce Pittman|
|Produced by||Heather Haldane
Mary Young Leckie
|Written by||Keith Ross Leckie|
|Starring||Michelle St. John
Kim Bruisedhead Fox
|Music by||Buffy Sainte-Marie|
|Edited by||Michael Todd|
|Distributed by||Amazing Spirit Productions Ltd.|
Where the Spirit Lives (1989) is a drama film about Aboriginal children in Canada being taken from their tribes to attend residential schools for assimilation into majority culture. Written by Keith Ross Leckie and directed by Bruce Pittman, it aired on CBC Television in 1989.
The film starred Michelle St. John as Amelia, a young Kainai girl captured and confined to the residential school system of the 1930s. The system was an attempt to have aboriginal youth to assimilate into the majority European-Canadian culture. Amelia resists assimilation and plans her escape. The film's cast includes Ann-Marie MacDonald and David Hemblen as teachers at the school.
In 1937, a young Kainai girl named Ashtoh-Komi is kidnapped along with several other children from a village as part of a Canadian policy to educate Aboriginal children and assimilate them into Canadian/British society. She is taken to a boarding school, where she is forced to adopt Western Euro-centric ways and learn English, often under harsh treatment. Combined with the rejection of her peers (as she is a so-called "Bush Indian" who has not learnt white customs), Komi attempts to escape one night on foot with her little brother, Pita. However her plan is quickly foiled as the Indian Agent assigned to the school, Tiger, catches up and brings them back to the school; where Komi is subjected to further punishment. Eventually Rachel, Komi's only ally among the students, plead with the teachers to free her by promising to teach Komi to behave.
One teacher, Kathleen, is portrayed as sympathetic and she becomes repelled by the bigotry of others at the school. She offers Komi help in the form of giving her English lessons which culminate in cultural exchange, where Kathleen learns Kainai words from Komi in exchange for her learning their English counterparts. Now Amelia, Komi improves her English quickly with the kindness and support of her teacher, gradually adjusting to the school environment while retaining her Kainai identity.
- Michelle St. John - Astoh-Komi/Amelia
- Clayton Julian - Pita/Abraham
- Ann-Marie MacDonald- Kathleen
- Ron White - Taggert 
- David Hemblen - Reverend Buckley
- Doris Petrie - Miss Weir
- Sleeping Children Awake, a 1992 documentary about residential schools
- We Were Children, a 2012 Canadian documentary about residential schools
- Our Spirits Don't Speak English (2008), a documentary film about Native American boarding schools in the United States.
- Where the Spirit Lives, Screen Door Website
- Where the Spirit Lives at the Internet Movie Database
- Where the Spirit Lives at AllMovie
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