THE BODY REMEMBERS WHEN THE WORLD BROKE OPEN – TIFF Film Reviews 2019.
November 11, 2019

Canada/Norway Production

Directors:  Elle-Maija Tailfeathers and Kathleen Hepburn

Aila (Elle-Maija Tailfeathers), a middle-class indigenous woman leaves the doctor’s office and encounters a young indigenous, Rosie (Violet Nelson), barefoot, pregnant and bruised, standing in the rain.  Rosie is afraid to return to the apartment where she lives with an abusive boyfriend and his mother.  Aila brings Rosie home with her.

We learn that Rosie, is a “graduate” of the child welfare system she has aged out of. Rosie doesn’t believe that Aila is also indigenous.  The two women’s lives are so different. We get a glimpse of their contrasting lives when Aila brings Rosie to her apartment. While in Aila’s apartment Rosie steals some pills from the medicine cabinet.  She slips Aila’s wallet out of her purse into her backpack. 

She refuses to call the police on her boyfriend who is on probation, not wanting to send him back to prison.  Aila looks for a safe place for Rosie to stay in spite of Rosie’s apparent unwillingness to go along with Aila’s plans. Rosie comes to life in the taxi they take to a women’s shelter.  She puts Aila in an awkward situation, telling the driver that the two of them are sisters and that Aila’s going into rehab.  She tells him that their father died in Afghanistan and their mother is also dead.

When they first get into the taxi, Rosie directs the taxi-driver to stop at an address where she sells the pills.  Aila, picking up on Rosie’s deviousness, follows her into the building and watches the transaction occur. 

The taxi lets them off at the safe house where Rosie pays the driver once Aila discovers her wallet isn’t in her purse.  Rosie opens up somewhat more at the safe house telling the workers that her boyfriend has kicked her in the stomach and he rubs his knuckles hard into her head.  She assures the workers that she can keep her baby safe.  She is determined to keep her baby out of the child welfare system. Recognizing this helps us to understand much of Rosie’s behaviour, her wish to stay out of the hands of social workers, police, courts that would judge her and possibly determine the baby to be at risk.

The film is told from the perspective of the director, Elle-Maija Tailfeathers, who also plays Aila, a middle-class urban indigenous woman. The film is based on an actual experience that Tailfeather’s had that shook her to the core and was life-altering for her.  She wanted to show the world the lives of these vulnerable young women.

 

Rosie is shown as a feisty, devious, yet vulnerable young woman, a product of a system which places the foster children it is responsible for in an impossible situation, pushing them out of the system once they come of age.  Rosie’s story could be the story of any young woman in her situation. With nowhere to go and no one to care about her, she falls into an abusive relationship and becomes pregnant with the next generation’s child welfare candidate.

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