Expanding on some of the ideas present in his earlier shorts, first time Canadian feature filmmaker Wayne Wapeemukwa’s Luk’Luk’I still feels like a group of episodic shorts with small connections to hold it all together.
Set against the backdrop of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, five marginalized citizens try to find their way through life. Angel Gates (herself) is an impoverished struggling single mother and part time sex worker trying to find a way to celebrate her child’s birthday. Eric Buurman (himself) is an addict and landscaper fixated on tracking down his estranged son out of fears he’ll die soon. Angela Dawson (herself) thinks of herself as a bit of a local celebrity, and is trying to market her appearances as “roller girl” despite some obvious mental health issues that are going untreated. Mark (Joe Dion Buffalo) is an indigenous addict prone to extraterrestrial and apocalyptic visions. Ken (Ken Harrower) is a disabled man in a wheelchair yearning for human connection and a pair of tickets to the gold medal hockey game.
Luk’Luk’I weaves its stories together logically, and each comes with some keen insights from Wapeemukwa about how quickly Canadians are to embrace rah-rah nationalism, but slow to help or acknowledge those in need on city streets. What muddies the water, however, is the setting. I understand the decision to set this all during the Olympics comes with its own sense of subtext, but it actually distracts from the drama since only Harrower’s storyline explicitly revolves around the event. These events play out every day, not just during the Olympics, so a good deal of Luk’Luk’I’s justified ire feels misplaced. It also sometimes raises uneasy questions about whether or not this film about the exploitation of marginalized people is unwittingly exploitative itself.
Is Luk’Luk’I essential viewing?
That’s tough to say. It’s very impassioned and the underlying messages are on point, but as a feature film and not five separate shorts, it’s too uneven to fully hold together.