“Where have you gone sweet innocence?”
I’m lost and it’s not a feeling I want to have when the TIFF Short Cuts Canada programmer calls Wayne Wapeemukwa‘s debut short Luk’Luk’I: Mother “narratively sophisticated”. That’s a description that will either boost your ego when the work speaks to you clearly or demoralize your intellect when you find comprehension is completely absent. Those words are doing the latter for me now as I unsuccessfully try to reconcile the synopsis with what I saw. Just the idea that a “full-time mother and part-time sex worker goes missing on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside during the 2010 Winter Olympics” has me scratching my head because if Stoney (Angel Gates) ever went missing, it wasn’t until the moment before the end credits began to roll.
My best guess is that the film portrays the moments before this likely real-life event. If that’s the case, maybe it will have an amazing emotional worth to viewers aware of what happened. I’m not one of those people and being ignorant to the situation confuses me because I never felt Stoney was anywhere she didn’t want to be until that final second. Instead I saw it as a day in the life piece following her travels; cross-cutting in her daughter Star (Lilianna Lagreca) playing with her grandmother (the credits say it’s the girl’s foster mother but I didn’t get that at all); and sharing a glimpse of Eric (Eric Buurman). He’s interesting because he may be playing himself considering he breaks the fourth wall to ask the director what to do next—a singular moment of fabrication starkly contrasting the rest.
The title Luk’Luk’I is Squamish for “Grove of Sacred Trees”, a place located in Crab Park, Vancouver. I’ll infer this is where the woman who went missing disappeared as her city celebrated Ice Hockey gold. Rather than truly describe that incident, however, the film shows us surreal musical interludes that play more as isolated vignettes than pieces of a coherent whole. We watch Gates take a shower in slomotion, witness Buurman singing karaoke, and later examine his complete process for shooting heroin with the gold-winning goal being scored the instant he presses his syringe’s plunger down. It’s therefore a powerful piece on poverty, drug addiction, and the lengths parents go to support their children, but I feel there’s more I cannot see as an outsider. I guess I’m simply not one of its specific commentary’s targeted viewers.
courtesy of TIFF