Posted at 4:26 PM on September 13, 2005
by Euan Kerr
Euan Kerr butting in again, this time from the Toronto Film Festival. The Toronto Festival is the annual cinematic orgy, where many movies from around the world get their first North American screening. If you can make it in Toronto, you can be assured of a lot of attention elsewhere.
Last night and this morning many eyes in Toronto got to see Minnesota through the movie lens of Nikki Caro's "North Country." The film opens across the country in October, and frankly folks, it's not going to be a comfortable experience.
Caro's first film "Whalerider" told a cute modern fairytale about a young Maori girl coming into her own as a young adult in her New Zealand Village. This film is an uncompromising tale inspired by the true events on Minnesota's Iron Range which led to the first ever class action sexual harassment suit in U.S.
And Nikki Caro doesn't pull her punches.
She puts her lead character Josie Aimes (played by Oscar winner Charlize Theron) through seven rings of hell. Not only does Josie, and the other women working in the iron mines, suffer the horrors of sexual harassment, she is further victimized when she sues, and the company drags her personal life through the gutter. The film ends in redemption, but it is a harrowing experience.
The crowd in Toronto loved 'North Country.' There was spontaneous applause several times during the film itself, and as the names of Nikki Caro, Charlize Theron, Frances McDermond and Sissy Spacek scrolled through the credits the crowd went wild again. The reviews this morning talked of an Oscar buzz around Theron's performance.
Will Minnesotan's love it as much? That is a tough one. Cinematographer Chris Mentges has captured the stark winter beauty of the Iron Range, and the immense scale of the mines.
The story will be harder to take. It's always tough when a difficult story is set in your community, and I suspect many people will be upset that this story is now going to be re-aired before a worldwide audience. Yet, I bet few people outside of the Land of 10,000 Lakes are going to see this as a Minnesota story. It is a human story, to which we can all relate.
Ultimately this is a story about the right to work with dignity, and the redemptive power of doing the right thing. Nikki Caro tells it well.