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Indigenous director’s film focuses on self-love through running

The film is the next to be screened at the John Elliott Theatre for Indigenous History Month

It's a tale that many can relate to - a story of triumph after overcoming some devastating, life-altering moments.

Run Woman Run delivers just this, and local residents will have the chance to view it for free on Thursday as part of the Town of Halton Hills' lineup for Indigenous History Month.

The film opens with the protagonist Beck, played by actor Dakota Ray Hebert, waking up next to her son, with whom she shares a bed. “You be the adult,” she tells her son as she struggles to wake up. The camera cuts to a wide-shot, showing that their room is a mess. 

While enjoying a cigarette for breakfast, a female voice off-camera, either Beck’s sister or stepmother, asks her to get the mail. She looks at the mailbox at the end of her family’s long gravel driveway, decides it's too far, gets in her car and drives to the mailbox, hitting it along the way. At this point, the audience knows everything there is to know about Beck.

The comedy, with dark themes, is the work of director Zoe Hopkins, a resident of Six Nations of the Grand River. Run Woman Run, which will be screened at the John Elliott Theatre on June 23 at 7 p.m., is about “self-love” according to her. 

“I wanted to tell a story about self-love more than romantic love,” Hopkins told HaltonHillsToday. “I was really inspired by watching the finish line of the Vancouver marathon one day and watching all the kinds of people who can do something like that.”

The movie, set in Ohsweken in Six Nations, follows Haudenosaunee woman Beck as she struggles to pick herself up after some devastating turns in her life. Her mother committed suicide before the events of the film. To make matters worse, she also wakes up in a hospital bed due to a diabetic coma. 

Despite a type 2 diabetes diagnosis, she refuses to take her meds and even eats an entire cake at one point. Her sister, Jess, nags her to take up running and learn the Mohawk language, but gets frustrated with her for not taking control of her life. 

The spirit of famed Onondaga long-distance runner and World War One veteran Tom Longboat appears to her. He gives Beck the push she needs to start running and get her life back together, cheekily giving her a hard time along the way. 

Hopkins spoke to Longboat's grandson to get an idea of what he was like. She and actor Asivak Koostachin brought Longboat to life together. 

“Tom Longboat is an important figure in our community. To runners across North America, but certainly special in Six Nation,” Hopkins said. “And he just kind of popped into my head one day. It was like he was saying, ‘You're writing a movie about running in Six Nations and I'm not in it? Can I please be in it?’” 

Language is also used as a metaphor for self-love. Beck is unable to speak her language, but not for a lack of trying to learn. She quit because of her mother’s death. 

“It's important to look at [self-love] in a holistic way. You're looking at how you're relating with your family, and if you are a parent, how are you relating with your children?” Hopkins said. “And if you're a part of a specific culture, how are you relating to that? Or if you don't speak your language, maybe that's something that is part of what you can look at as your holistic self love.”

Free tickets for the screening can be secured through the John Elliott Theatre box office.