Award-winning novel Monkey Beach hits the big screen after 20 years
TORONTO -- This fall, a distinctly Indigenous story will be hitting theatres -- a feature film 20 years in the making.
That’s how long it took to bring Eden Robinson’s award-winning novel, Monkey Beach, to the big screen.
“I'm still stunned that it's in the world, that it's going out there,” Robinson told CTV News. “It's just… I really don't have words."
Robinson is a novelist and short story writer from the Haisla and Heiltsuk First Nations who has been lauded for her writing both in Canada and internationally.
Monkey Beach, which was her first novel, is the story of a young woman struggling with her supernatural abilities in the wake of her brother disappearing at sea.
The trailer begins with an ominous plunge into water, and the voice of the main character:
“Contacting the dead: lesson one,” she says. “Concentrate on nothing and everything at the same time."
The genesis of the story comes from Robinson’s family.
“The very first incarnations of Monkey Beach were a series of stories that Mom told me when I was a kid,” she said.
So it’s fitting that family has helped her interpret the story in the medium of film -- her sister, Carla Robinson, is the executive producer on the film.
This dynamic duo faced many challenges bringing this story to life. At first, no one believed in the project, and turning their home village of Kitamaat, B.C., into a movie set was no small feat. But there was nowhere else the story could’ve been filmed, the sisters say.
“Monkey Beach is a character,” Carla told CTV News. “The pacific northwest is a character in the movie, you just can't get a stand in actor for that."
Kitamaat Village of the Haisla people is remote, home to 700 of the 1,700 Haisla members, according to the Haisla Nation’s website. It’s an 18-hour drive north from Vancouver. Transporting cast, crew and gear was another hurdle to the filmmaking process.
"It just made it worth all the hard work,” Carla said. “With Loretta and other people who believed in the project for so many years and got told no so many times.
“To help make it happen, it was pretty magical."
Director Loretta Todd says the film is a story about empowerment.
“It really is about Indigenous women embracing their medicine,” she told CTV News. “Lisa, the main character, she goes on this journey to truly embrace the power she has within her.”
Monkey Beach is currently touring the festival circuit, recently opening the Vancouver Film Festival. It will be in theatres across Canada soon.
And it’s not the only Robinson project to hit the screen. The sisters teamed up to turn Eden’s bestselling coming-of-age novel, Son of a Trickster, into a six-part TV series, which started airing this month.