Contemporary World Cinema in Toronto International Film Festival is screening the world premiere of The Lesser Blessed, directed by Anita Doron and starring Benjamin Bratt. High school is especially harsh for Larry Sole (Joel Nathan Evans), a teenaged metal-head living in a remote community in the Northwest Territories. Shy and ruminative, he’s taunted daily by his town’s golden boy and resident bully, Darcy (Adam Butcher). This is because of Larry’s tortured past, and his aboriginal roots: he, his mother Verna (Tamara Podemski) and her sometime boyfriend Jed (Benjamin Bratt) are all members of the Tlicho First Nation.
Director Anita Doron is remarkable in her own right. She was born in Transcarpathia, in the former USSR, and later defected to Canada. Her first feature, The End of Silence (06) won the Best Feature Film award at the Canadian Filmmakers’ Festival. She was a co-director of the interactive feature Late Fragment (07), which played the Festival. Her other features include Europa, East (10), Mystico Fantástico! (11) and The Lesser Blessed (12).
In a brief roundtable discussion with Benjamin Bratt and three other reporters (from Berlin, Sydney and Budapest) and yours truly, Benjamin Bratt, looking as young as a teenager, spoke about his transition to pater familias in his own private life with Talisa Soto and thier two children as well as in his part in this film. He likes helping lead the way for the young who are ruderless, for the ones with no voice whose culture has been cut away unceremoniously from their lives by conquering civilizations.
He speaks for himself and his own Peruvian people (Qechua) when he begins to discuss the issue of disenfranchisement and how it affects the youth and how, as in this film, if they can be shown how to reconnect with their cultures then they can begin to open new pathways in their personal and social lives. His own mother, a native American activist, took her five children along when she was part of the Alcatraz prison takeover in 1970, so he has learned this from the cradle. When he saw the script to The Lesser Blessed, he immediately sent it to his brother Peter Bratt with a note saying that this is the sort of story he wishes he could make with his brother. He considers himself blessed for being able to sustain a television series which allows him to make the small independent features like The Lesser Blessed.