About this event:
2017 Canadian historical drama film directed and written by François Girard and starring Gilles Renaud, Samian and Tanaya Beatty. Dramatizing several centuries of Quebec history and the local history of Montreal in particular, the story depicts Quebec archaeology revealing the past of indigenous peoples, explorers and 1837 rebels.
“In the aftermath of a hard-fought battle between Indigenous warriors in 1267, when many Iroquoians were killed on the “Isle of Death”, an Iroquois prophet gives the massacre’s lone survivor the name Asigny. Centuries later, Asigny’s descendant Baptiste Asigny is a graduate student studying Mohawk history. Baptiste struggles to pay rent and obtain research grants while studying under the Université de Montréal archaeology professor Antoine Morin. One night, a rainstorm opens a sinkhole in the field during a game at McGill University‘s Percival Molson Memorial Stadium, killing one player. Observing the development, Morin theorizes the sinkhole may lead to evidence of Hochelaga, where French explorer Jacques Cartier contacted Indigenous peoples in Quebec. Morin obtains an order from the Ministry of Culture to be allowed to dig and hires Baptiste to lead an archaeological excavation of the field.
The archaeologists dig over several days, finding the “Isle of Death” was the site of a “purple fever” outbreak in 1687. French settler Étienne Maltais is involved in a sexual affair with a native woman named Akwi. He vows to marry her next year, not before God, but the Great Spirit. She notices sores on his body, which he dismisses as injuries caused by a fall during a hunt. Maltais falls gravely ill of purple fever and is committed to a hospital, where the Catholic chaplain and nuns accuse him of fornicating with a “savage”, sin and apostasy. He resolutely orders them to stop haranguing him.
Baptiste finds the sinkhole is located over a stream and finds weapons he believed could have belonged to Patriote rebels during the Lower Canada Rebellion in 1837. The two Patriotes had fled British loyalist forces led by Colonel Philip Thomas. They came upon the Walker property, though archaeologists note Mr. Walker had been firmly loyalist. However, the widowed Sarah Walker gives the Patriotes sanctuary. The Patriotes are discovered and killed by the loyalists. Mrs. Walker tells Thomas that due to her advanced age, she does not believe she will ever go to trial.
At the end of the dig, Baptiste finds the cross of explorer Jacques Cartier, who arrived to Hochelaga in 1535, claiming the land for the Kingdom of France. Cartier met with the chief Tennawake and presented him with the cross. The meeting is peaceful, though Tennawake and his people consider that more Europeans will come to Hochelaga. Cartier names the land Mont Réal (royal mountain). The football team returns to the field, and six years after the sinkhole opened Morin congratulates Baptiste on his research.”
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