Acclaimed actor Tantoo Cardinal takes the starring role in the meditative Falls Around Her, written and directed by Darlene Naponse. Cardinal plays Anishinaabe singer Mary Birchbark who has had a great career but feels burned out and wants to get back to basics. She retreats to her home, Atikameksheng Anishnawbek First Nation, to live in her grandmother’s cabin deep in the woods. Her sister Betty (Tina Keeper) and cousin Inez (Gail Maurice) want to support her, but Mary wants to be still, away from the big city, to get back to herself. Surrounded by nature and working on grounding herself to where she comes from, she no longer wants to be a puppet who performs for the world’s takers. Mary sticks to her goal of retreating from the world despite Betty’s concerns, but there are also signs that Mary may not be alone in her cabin paradise, and she must rely on her wits and authentic self to figure out what still might have a hold on her.
Naponse, who is Anishinaabe and from the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek First Nation herself, wrote and directed a one-of-a-kind film focusing on Indigenous women past a certain age reclaiming their lives. She gives us a dynamic character with Mary, who frees herself from outside influences both figuratively and literally. Cardinal’s performance is powerful in her understated strength. And the tenderness, vulnerability and bonds between these women make Falls Around Her a must watch.