Red Snow Parent Guide
A profound movie about war, culture and the will to survive.
Parent Movie Review
Dylan Nadazeau (Asivak Koostachin) is a Gwinch’in member of the Canadian Armed Forces, on deployment in Afghanistan. When his unit is betrayed and ambushed by the Taliban, Dylan is accused of being a spy - the Taliban fighters think the Gwich’in writing in his notebook is a secret code. Kept in confinement, Dylan finds himself dwelling on his upbringing in the Northwest Territories.
Though brief and straightforward, Red Snow is a movie that forces us to think. There is no avoiding the questions about Canada’s treatment of Aboriginal peoples, the justifications for military interventions on foreign soil, and our attitudes towards mental illness. While this makes for very worthwhile watching, it also makes for a somewhat difficult experience, which I would argue is a good thing. While I definitely love a good popcorn movie, I believe it’s important to consume media that poses serious questions.
The acting is phenomenal, especially since none of the cast play to easy stereotypes which are so common in war movies. Not that the actors make the Taliban sympathetic (which would take some doing), but they remind us that, like any terrorist organization, it is composed of individuals with varied personalities. Some are more relatable than others, even if they are equally involved in terrorism.
Especially engaging is Aman, played by Shafin Karim, the unfortunate schoolteacher compelled to act as an army translator to save his family. Aman’s interactions with Dylan are particularly valuable in the storyline, as they bring different aspects of Dylan’s character into sharper relief.
Red Snow is not rated by the MPAA, but its dozen-plus sexual expletives will certainly earn it a Restricted rating. That said, other content concerns are minimal. The violence is some of the mildest I’ve seen in a modern war movie, and there is no depiction of sex, drugs, or alcohol. It’s not often you find a film this rewarding with so few content concerns.
It’s a shame Red Snow seems to be stuck on the Film Festival circuit with no broad release as yet. It’s a touching story, well written and well acted, with profound questions inherent in the plot, setting, and characters. It is also charmingly unpretentious, avoiding the tedious self-importance that can plague thoughtful films. This would be an excellent film for high-school aged students, either recreationally or in a classroom environment. It’s hard to get better education out of a movie in just an hour and a half.Directed by Marie Clements. Starring Asivak Koostachin, Mozhdah Jamalzadah, and Miika Bryce Whiskeyjack. Running time: 100 minutes. Theatrical release November 4, 2019. Updated January 23, 2020
Watch the trailer for Red Snow
Rating & Content Info
Violence: Multiple individuals are shot, on two occasions with large amounts of blood. An individual commits suicide, largely off-screen but with some blood shown. A bear caught in a trap is killed. Two people are stabbed.
Sexual Content: There are several brief and non-specific references to sex.
Profanity: There are thirteen uses of extreme profanity, and a handful of moderate and mild profanities.
Alcohol / Drug Use: A number of unnamed background characters are shown with alcohol.
Page last updated January 23, 2020
Red Snow Parents' Guide
Dylan has had a difficult life in the Northwest Territories, and things aren’t any easier in Afghanistan. What advantages does he have which allow him to succeed? If one of the white members of his unit had been captured instead, do you think he would have been treated differently? How come?
Aman finds himself caught between combatants in a dangerous war, and soon his family is on the line. What would you have done in his place? Do you think Aman is a traitor?
Khatira is especially vulnerable under Taliban rule due to her education. Why is that? Why are educated women seen as a threat in some parts of the world? What advantages come to societies where women are highly educated?
Learn more about girls’ education in Afghanistan:
Human Rights Watch: Afghanistan: Girls Struggle for an Education
Unicef: Afghanistan: Education
Learn about the benefits of educating women
Central Asia Institute: Top 10 Reasons to Support Girls’ Education
Wikipedia: Socioeconomic impact of female education
There are several suicides in the film, reflecting the high suicide rate in Canada’s northern indigenous communities. What are the causes of this crisis? What steps have been taken by Federal and Territorial governments to stop the problem? What stands in the way of further progress?
Learn more about the suicide crisis in Canada’s North:
Centre for Suicide Prevention: Canada’s Indigenous Communities and Suicide
The Atlantic: The Suicide Emergency Among Canada’s First Nations
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Living under Taliban rule posed grave challenges for the people of Afghanistan – especially women and girl. In The Breadwinner, a young girl cuts off her hair and passes as a boy so she can put food on her family’s table.