Monkey Beach

Lisa Hill has powers. She can foretell death, She sees mythical creatures. She talks with the dead. She has harrowing visions. She left Kitamaat, her ocean-side village, hoping if she partied hard enough in Vancouver, her visions and the grief they inflicted would disappear. But when a warning from her dead cousin sends her racing back home, Lisa realizes the partying didn't work. Her visions are back – with a vengeance. Her childhood visions of her younger brother Jimmy have returned. In them, Jimmy drowns.
Growing up, Lisa’s visions made her feel like she had to protect Jimmy. But no one would believer her – except for her grandmother, Mama-oo. Back home, Jimmy reassures Lisa that he's good, he's safe. But one morning he heads out with Uncle Josh on his fishing boat. When the Coast Guard calls to say the boat has disappeared, Lisa feels hopeless. Jimmy had insisted on fishing with Josh, but Lisa soon learns he wasn’t interested in fishing. He was intent on ridding the village of Josh, a sexual predator who has abused many young women, including Karaoke, Jimmy’s fiancé.
In a desperate quest to save Jimmy, Lisa sets out on a journey by boat to Monkey Beach, a powerful place where she believes she will find Jimmy – and where she will face the hardest journey of all, to the Land of the Dead. In her quest Lisa discovers the true meaning of her visions: But are they blessings in disguise or agents of dark forces?

  • Loretta Sarah Todd
    Director
  • Loretta Sarah Todd, Johnny Darrell, Andrew Duncan
    Writer
  • Loretta Sarah Todd
    Producer
    Skye and Chang
  • Patti Poskitt
    Producer
    Grand Unified Theory
  • Carla Robinson
    Producer
  • Fred Fuchs
    Producer
    Bram Stroker's Dracula, Virgin Suicides
  • Matthew O'Connor
    Producer
  • Lisa Richardson
    Producer
  • Grace Dove
    Key Cast
    "Lisa"
    How it Ends, The Revenant
  • Joel Ouelette
    Key Cast
    "Jimmy"
  • Nathaniel Arcand
    Key Cast
    "Albert "
    FBI: Most Wanted; Cold Pursuit
  • Tina Marie Lameman
    Key Cast
    "Mama-OO"
    Circle of Steel, Mixed Blessings
  • Adam Beach
    Key Cast
    "Uncle Mick"
    Flags of Our Fathers, Percy
  • Stefany Mathias
    Key Cast
    "Gladys "
    Longmire, The Devil You Know
  • Project Type:
    Feature
  • Genres:
    Drama, Supernatural
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 44 minutes 49 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    August 3, 2020
  • Production Budget:
    2 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    Canada
  • Country of Filming:
    Canada
  • Language:
    English
  • Shooting Format:
    Arri Alexa
  • Aspect Ratio:
    16:9
  • Film Color:
    Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    Yes
  • Student Project:
    No
  • American Indian Film Festival
    San Francisco
    United States
    December 1, 2020
    Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress
  • Red Nation Film Festival
    Los Angeles
    United States
    December 1, 2020
    Best Director, Best Film, Best Actor, Best Actress
  • Toronto International Film Festival - Industry Selects
    Toronto
    Canada
    December 1, 2020
    North American
  • Vancouver International Film Festival
    Vancouver
    Canada
    September 10, 2020
    Opening Film
  • Sante Fe Independent Film Festival
    Santa Fe
    United States
Director Biography - Loretta Sarah Todd

Bio: Loretta Todd (Métis Cree) is an internationally acclaimed, award-winning filmmaker who directed her first dramatic feature film, Monkey Beach, based on the iconic novel by Eden Robinson. She also co-wrote the script and is producing. Ms. Todd has directed over 125 programs, from children's series, like Coyote's Crazy Smart Science Show, to Skye and Chang, a sci-fi martial arts mash-up, as well as web-series (Fierce Girls) and numerous documentaries, shorts and animation. She works as a show runner and has directed over 35 short animations. Recently she created the IM4 Lab, the first Indigenous VR/AR Lab in Canada, in partnership with Emily Carr University of Art and Design. Her films have screened at the Sundance Festival, TIFF, ImagineNative and the Museum of Modern Art. Ms Todd has received the Mayor's Awards for Media Arts – City of Vancouver, Sundance Scriptwriter’s Lab—Sundance Institute, Rockefeller Fellowship—NYU Center for Media, Culture and History and Innovator Award from Women In Film.

In demand as a speaker, she's presented at the UN International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, MOMA and Indigenous language conferences, including UNESCO sponsored summit HELISET TŦE SḰÁL - 'Let the Languages Live'. Writing critical and cultural art theory, Ms. Todd published such essays as: About the Future, in Close Encounters: The Next 500 Years, International Exhibition of Contemporary Indigenous Art and A Few Days in December in Venice, published in Vision, Space and Desire – Global Perspectives and Cultural Hybridity, eds./curators Paul Chaat Smith, Gerald McMaster, National Museum of the American Indian.

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Director Statement

I am the most unlikely filmmaker - a teenage runaway, teen mom and I've been homeless (like sleep in parks and grain sheds homeless). But somehow I prevailed, got to film school, made many docs and created children's series, like Coyote's Crazy Smart Science Show, about Indigenous science. When I started making films, as an Indigenous woman every film was a challenge to get produced. It was the same for Monkey Beach. It took me over 15 years to make Monkey Beach but I never gave up. And I made it in the village where the story is set (18 hour drive from Vancouver - so about a third of my budget went to ensure the Haisla people felt that this film was theirs, too.

Monkey Beach has been embraced with great love by the Indigenous community. Some people have even told me it is the most Indigenous film they've seen - though not take away from other Indigenous films. A good friend and an Elder told me it is like true Indigenous filmmaking based on traditional storytelling.

Eden Robinson, the author of Monkey Beach the novel, has shared how she is influenced by Stephen King and Edgar Allen Poe – and I imagine Charlotte Bronte, Alice Walker, Ursula Le Guin. But Eden is always her own self – her own voice. And she said I was the only filmmaker she would trust with her voice in Monkey Beach. I've shared meals with her relatives and listened to their many stories; it is clear she is from a continuum of brilliant storytellers who can make you forget time while you are immersed within the stories, within the words and places, hearing the laughter and tears of the people and the ancestors, the sound of the waves and the feel wind and the rain.

Monkey Beach holds many stories about the metaphysics of life and death, about the poetry and pain of coming to know one’s self, about the fragility of happiness and family. And there are ghosts and spirits and the supernatural co-existing with us in the real world.

Monkey Beach is “far more than a novel of psychological transformation... It is, in the best sense, a thriller, a spiritual mystery... breathtaking... Robinson rewards our faith that after all these years writers can still, as Pound said, 'make it new.' (The Washington Post). In making Monkey Beach, my vision is to make it new – a rich, cinematic experience that layers the beauty of land, water and story.

The book and the script move through Lisa’s life in an elliptical journey – rather than a linear progression toward conflicts resolved. Instead it follows the rhythms of Indigenous storytelling – where narrative elements flow from associative meaning, layering moments and meaning rather than being driven by linear cause and effect. Lisa's stories are hard realities and deep truths merged with glimpses of dreams and pieces of memories. This is a story about a young woman who must embrace her medicine

I was dedicated to filming Monkey Beach in the territory where the story flows- that of the Haisla Nation in Kitamaat, BC. It engaged many people from the community – from cast to crew and artists. And I was dedicated to a film of beauty and poetry. That is my vision.