Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

"This is a film that will keep finding ways to make you feel sad."

Vancouver is backdrop - that name is Coast Salish for the city's downtown Eastside - but from opening shots lit by rotating neon, the sweep is one of differently distributed futurity, opportunity. Red floors, red lights, red leaves between red stripes, red blood, red hair, red ink, read carefully.

Wayne Wapeemukwa and his cast have made something that is bleakly beautiful, as focussed and raw as a needle to a vein. Which is more cliched than Luk'Luk'i deserves - with its shots from cameras attached to and moving with our protagonists, its recurring visions of further abductions, improvisatory, hallucinatory, set against a moment of Canadian national (perhaps even National) import - the 2010 Winter Olympic hockey finals.

At festivals one comes to expect the odd warning of strobe - Luk'Luk'I has none, needs none - but other warnings might. There are graphic depictions of heroin consumption, there is misgendering, dead-naming, violence against people and animals, a music video shot on a rink that skates a difficult line between exploration and exploitation. There are some striking moments of composition, intersecting narratives in parenthetic framing, the perfect blue of television tuned to a dead channel. There is a nice white lady taking a loved one away, there is the agitated dance of a disbelieved addict, there are the police, there are alleyways, there is something like hope, and then something very, very different.

There are moments that could be outsider art, karaoke, drawings, musings on what constitutes celebrity, ticket touts, robbery, bingo, love. This is a film that will keep finding ways to make you feel sad, one where hope of happy endings is born much more of audience expectations than anything in the text. The closing is stark, brutal, sound over a black screen and continued over the credits in a way that makes the most of the cinema experience - attention as hostage. Those credits acknowledge the complexity of the land's history, an acknowledgement of past issues in a film full of them.

As a period piece, one drawn around heroin emptiness, voids of addiction, narratives of abandonment, this is affecting, compelling. Survivors abound, but nothing here is forever. That light that sweeps may be soft, but it is not kind. Luk'Luk'I is, at times - tender when it is not raw.

Reviewed on: 21 Jun 2018
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Luk'Luk'I packshot
A group of marginalised Vancouverites try to tackle their troubled lives.

Director: Wayne Wapeemukwa

Writer: Eric Buurman, Angela Dawson, Angel Gates, Ken Harrower, Mark McKay, Wayne Wapeemukwa

Starring: Angel Gates, Joe Buffalo, Ken Harrower, Eric Buurman, Angela Dawson, Yvette Benson, Fraser Dick, Amanda Friesen, Patrick Gaites, John Gillich, Jason William Lee, Shanae Tomasevich, Kenneth Tynan, Natasha Young, Angel Gates

Year: 2017

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: Canada


EIFF 2018

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