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First Stories: Kuessipan Image

First Stories:


True North | First Stories

"Friendships, like love affairs, can break your heart. And in the moving coming-of-age drama, Kuessipan, an adaptation of Naomi Fontaine’s novel of the same name, best friends Mikuan (Sharon Fontaine-Ishpatao) and Shaniss (Yamie Grégoire) experience both.

On an Innu reservation in Quebec, Mikuan lives a picturesque life with her close-knit family, while Shaniss cares for her alcoholic mother. When Shaniss is sent to live with her aunt, the distance can’t keep them apart. But eventually their friendship is tested.

A devoted teen mom with a volatile partner, Shaniss is in perpetual conflict. Meanwhile, Mikuan’s talent and ambitions have outgrown their small town. Her love affair with a white boy only exacerbates their growing strife. Verreault’s pacing is lovely, allowing both lives to be fleshed out, while giving space to numerous quietly special moments like Mikuan and Francis’s first ’almost’ kiss.

Kuessipan is a beautiful, un-sensationalized look at young womanhood, friendship and community."

Chaka V Grier, NOW magazine

Filmmaker bios

Myriam Verreault (director, cowriter) grew up in Loretteville, a Quebec City suburb. In 2009, she made a name for herself by co-directing, scripting, producing, and editing West of Pluto, her critically-acclaimed debut feature film. In 2011, she directed the web documentary My Tribe Is My Life – Shana, The Emo Kid for the NFB, where she was faced with the realities of a young resident of Mani-Utenam. In 2014, she edited Mélanie Carrier and Olivier Higgins’ Québékoisie, a Jutra-nominated documentary that explores the relationship between Quebecers and Indigenous people. Myriam started her research and writing for Kuessipan in 2012 in collaboration with the writer of the book by the same name, Naomi Fontaine, and spent five hardworking years on it, during which she made multiple immersion trips to the Innu community before beginning to shoot.

Naomi Fontaine (cowriter) was born in Uashat, an Innu community within the city of Sept-Îles and a small bay of the St. Lawrence River. She went back to her community to teach for three years after completing her university

studies in Quebec City. In 2011, her first novel, Kuessipan, a collection of poetic stories, was published. Her second novel, Manikanetish, was published in 2017, and the third, Shuni, in 2019.

2 CSA Nominations (Yamie Grégoire; Douglas Grégoire).

FIRST STORIES: features made by and about Indigenous Women

"One of the most captivating character dramas at [TIFF]… It’s a coming-of-age story that stands out from the pack for its soulfulness." Orla Smith, Svventh Row

"Kuessipan is quiet and mesmerizing and tragic and full of hope. It is a triumph, and a privilege to spend time with." Kate Taylor, Globe and Mail

Director Myriam Verreault
Country of Origin: Canada
Year: 2019
Running Time: 117 mins
Format: DCP
Classification: PG
Language:In French, Innu with English subtitles
Related Links: Website & Trailer | Trailer
Cast: Sharon Fontaine-Ishpatao, Yamie Grégoire, Douglas Grégoire


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