Blah blah blah: Two Indians Talking tells more than it shows, but remains a thought- provoking drama

From Uptown by Kenton Smith

Maybe you’ve heard the old Jewish joke: put two Jews in a room, you get five opinions. Numerical options vary.

Director Sara McIntyre’s Two Indians Talking, which won the People’s Choice Award for best Canadian film at the 2010 Vancouver International Film Festival, is a bit like that.

The film’s two Native characters, Nathan (Nathaniel Arcand) and Adam (Justin Rain), certainly have plenty of opinions, even if they don’t always realize it.

“I’m not an opinion fountain,” Adam eventually complains.

He doesn’t necessarily have views on everything. Neither does Nathan. There’s a lot they disagree on, yet they can also be self-contradictory. Their respective outlooks can’t necessarily be encapsulated in pat fashion.

In other words, they’re people — and that’s the achievement of Two Indians Talking. Yes, there’s a lot of loaded political, social and emotional content in what Nathan and Adam discuss, but Andrew Genaille’s script breaks through a lot of those layers to present them as human beings.

As the 2009 documentary Reel Injun detailed, the explosion in Aboriginal-themed and -made cinema over the last several years has finally allowed Native people in the movies to just be themselves.

And guess what? They can be as complicated as anyone.

The film’s title is apt. Nathan, Adam and others in their B.C. community (if they mentioned which nation, I missed it) are planning a major protest in the form of a roadblock. They’re waiting for what they hope will be hundreds of Cree to join them. In the meantime, they talk.

The larger theme is about the search for identity. What makes an Indian an Indian? What makes Nathan and Adam who they are as Aboriginal men?

Two Indians Talking feels like a filmed play in spots; the camera work keeps things only just barely on this side of cinema.

The often-witty dialogue is good on multiple levels. “Love is only what you call it when you want to nail something,” says Nathan the pseudo-philosopher at one point.

The characters also have fun with elements of their Native identities, as when Adam refers to a potlatch as “dinner theatre.”

Then there’s Nathan’s exchange with the rather laid-back Cree dude who finally arrives.

“There’s supposed to be hundreds of you!” Nathan cries. “Two-hundred thousand, actually.”

“Two-hundred thousand are coming?”

“Well, less than that.”

And then there’s some dark, biting truths, as when Nathan declares the reason for building reservations is “to take your dreams away from you.”

He’s cynical, all right. So’s Adam, but not about the same things. They learn from each other. We learn from them. Hey, not a bad start. I think that’s the point.

The Winnipeg Aboriginal Film Festival continues until Nov. 28. For complete program, showtime and venue information visit