Beans Parent Guide
When reality is violent and traumatic, movies based on it will have the same characteristics. The negative content here is frequent and disturbing but also authentic.
Parent Movie Review
It’s hard to imagine that a golf course could result in barricades, evacuations, and death, but that’s exactly what happened in the sleepy Canadian exurbs of Montreal in 1990. The decision to expand a nine-hole golf course in the town of Oka, Quebec, destroying an indigenous burial ground in the process, sparked a conflict with the Mohawks of Kanehsatake that would consume the summer. To protect their ancestors’ graves, local Mohawks set up roadblocks, only to face anti-riot actions from the provincial police force, which left one officer dead. In the meantime, sympathetic Mohawks from the Kahnawake reserve south of Montreal blockaded the Mercier Bridge, effectively strangling commuter traffic. As tempers heated up, the Canadian Armed Forces were called in to bring the protests to an end.
Set in Kahnesatake, this movie follows a 12 year old girl named Takehentahkhwa (Kiawenti:io), but known as Beans. A vibrant, ambitious tween, Beans has applied to a prestigious school so she can pursue her artistic and academic dreams. But when the barricades go up, she gets a different type of education: one about violence, prejudice, and hatred.
Beans can be a painful film to watch, especially when Beans and her little sister Ruby (Violah Beauvais) are directly affected by the events unfolding around them. Desperate to become “tough” enough to stand up for her people, Beans starts hanging out with a group of teenagers, led by a hard-boiled girl named April (Paulina Alexis), with predictably bad results.
It’s this friendship with April that produces much of the negative content in the film. April introduces Beans to alcohol and soon has her drinking booze socially as well as chugging liquor out of the bottle while she’s distraught. It’s worth remembering that this isn’t at a bunch of university students playing beer pong – April’s group are teenagers and Beans is 12 years old. She’s not a teenager; she’s a child who’s learning that stress can be numbed by alcohol. Also upsetting is an attempt to force Beans into unwanted sexual activity. Compared to these issues, the movie’s 70 sexual expletives almost seem like a second tier concern.
On top of these problems, there’s plenty of violence seen on screen and referred to in conversation and news clips from the era. There’s conflict and tension on the barricades but the most disturbing scenes are personal – angry Quebeckers throwing rocks at the car driven by Beans’s mother, Beans being punched and whipped by April in a horrifying attempt to make her “tough”, a traumatized Beans beating up a young white girl, Beans cutting herself to cope with her emotional turmoil. This is definitely not your standard “what I did on my summer vacation” movie.
Despite the negative content, I’m not delivering a blanket condemnation of the film. Yes, the content is unsuitable and sometimes egregious. But director Tracey Deer says the movie draws on her memories of the Oka crisis, and I believe that she has created a film that accurately recreates her experiences. That said, parents and teachers are going to want to be very careful about showing this movie to young people. It can help them understand the experiences of indigenous people and can help teens develop empathy. But the negative content is disturbing and the attempt at sexual coercion could be triggering for someone with past trauma.
The most damning part of the film isn’t that it contains negative content. The real horror here is that for too many indigenous people, the content that horrifies us is their lived reality.Directed by Tracey Deer. Starring Kiawentiio Tarbell, Paulina Jewel Alexis, and Violah Beauvais. Running time: 92 minutes. Theatrical release July 23, 2021. Updated July 29, 2021
Watch the trailer for Beans
Rating & Content Info
Why is Beans rated Not Rated? Beans is rated Not Rated by the MPAA
Violence: A riot squad attacks a protest group, using tear gas to disperse the protestors. There is mention of the shooting death of a police officer. A store manager refuses to serve people based on their race. A man spits in a woman’s face. News clips discus people throwing rocks at an ambulance carrying an indigenous man. A man advocates the death of indigenous people. A girl gets punched in the stomach. There’s mention of a man burning photo albums while drunk. A girl hits another with a switch. Teenagers set off fireworks and throw water balloons and Molotov cocktails at a group of police officers. People throw rocks at cars, endangering the people inside. A child throws rocks at a police car. A distraught girl cuts herself. A girl attacks another girl, pulling her hair and hitting her. A mannequin of a Mohawk warrior is burned in effigy. Men with tire irons attack a car, endangering the children inside. A child punches her sibling.
Sexual Content: A teenage boy licks a girl’s feet. Two teens kiss in a closet. A woman is heard screaming in labor. A teen asks a girl to perform a sexual act on him and tells her how to do it. He undoes his pants and tries to force her but she runs away. There is a coded reference to incest.
Profanity: There are at least 70 sexual expletives in the film; the number is doubtless higher because they come so fast they are hard to count. There are also several sexual hand gestures. In addition, there are frequent scatological curses, a variety of crude anatomical terms, a few minor curses, and some terms of deity. An ethnic slur for indigenous women is used as is an ethnic slur for French Canadians. A derogatory term for women is heard frequently.
Alcohol / Drug Use: A man is seen passed out, apparently from drinking alcohol. Underage teens and children drink alcohol in social situations. A distressed child chugs alcohol from the bottle.
Page last updated July 29, 2021
Beans Parents' Guide
For more information about the Oka Crisis, check these links:
The Canadian Encyclopedia: Oka Crisis
YouTube: CBC Docs: The Oka Legacy
The Mohawk people have a long and interesting history and played an important part in the histories of Canada and the United States. More information is available here:
Wikipedia: Mohawk People
The Canadian Encyclopedia: Kanyen’kehà:ka (Mohawk)
Does your country have a history of settler colonialism? What was the effect on indigenous people? What is the current relationship between indigenous peoples and the rest of the population? What do you know about the history of the native people of your country? What are the benefits of learning more about them?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
For an introduction to native history in North America, check out Thomas King’s The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America.
The Oka Crisis is treated at length in Oka: A Political Crisis and Its Legacy by Harry Swain. Craig MacLaine also tackles the topic in This Land Is Our Land: The Mohawk Revolt at Oka.
Indigenous people are on the run from people trying to steal their bone marrow in Cherie Dimaline’s award-winning novel, The Marrow Thieves.
Related home video titles:
Another movie about Canada’s indigenous people is The Grizzlies. Set in the territory of Nunavut, this film tells the story of a group of teens who start playing lacrosse as a way to cope with their community’s problems.
Selmais a civil rights movie, following Black Americans in the 1960s who demonstrated for their right to vote and whose peaceful actions were met with hatred and murderous violence.